Lawyers for and against transgender citizens being able to serve in the U.S. military met at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Monday, where back-and-forth discussions between judges and legal counsel were pointedly heated.
Arguing their case for why President Donald Trump should be able to ban transgender troops from serving in the military, lawyers speaking on behalf of the commander in chief described the decisions by four lower-court federal judges temporarily banning Trump’s orders as “truly extraordinary,” according to reporting from the Washington Post.
One of the judges on the court, however, seemed to contradict their statement, chiding the president for the way in which he announced the proposed ban. As Judge Thomas Griffith stated on Monday, the announcement was made by Trump on Twitter, surprising many top military leaders at his command.
Those leaders had no idea about the proposal ahead of when it was made, and “was extraordinary, also,” Griffith said.
Despite the tense back-and-forth on the issue of how the measure was proposed, judges on the D.C. court did not indicate one way or another how they might rule in the near future on the issue. The Trump administration had been hoping to bypass the appellate court process altogether and to have the Supreme Court weigh in ahead of time to expedite the issue, per reporting from the Independent.
Trump announced in July 2017 via Twitter his intention to ban transgender military personnel from serving openly in the armed forces. The original rationale against allowing transgender citizens from serving was one based on cost, as the administration said that reassignment surgery, which was previously paid for by the government to all those who served, would create too high of a bill for the government and make service difficult for soldiers opting to utilize it.
Many have contended that argument is invalid, however. While the U.S. military currently spends over $8 million in such surgeries annually, that’s a drop in the bucket of a budget that’s over $50 billion. Additionally, less than 2 percent of transgender service members opt for medical transition surgeries at all, making the argument that it would interfere with their ability to serve all but moot, per reporting from Forbes.
Still, it may be hard for some to find a logical argument against Trump’s insistence that he has the final say in the matter. As commander in chief of the U.S. military, the president can make such sweeping orders with little-to-no say from the judicial or legislative branches of government from stopping him.
But some legal minds believe that the transgender military ban amounts to part of a larger attack on the LGBT community, specifically against transgender citizens in the United States. “[T]hey certainly aren’t limiting their attacks to the military. They have attacked us in the context of education, employment, health care, and housing. It is an all-out assault,” said Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, according to the ACLU website.