The Supreme Court has allowed President Trump to move forward with his ban of transgender people from military service, as the case continues to make its way through lower courts.
The nation’s highest court ruled 5-4 in favor of allowing the ban to take effect. Conservatives voted in favor of the ban and liberal members voted against it. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the policy had been tweaked by Pentagon officials over a period of months and no longer constituted a “blanket ban.”
The policy, which was announced in 2017 by Trump, said that the government “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.” The president alleged that the costs incurred by the Pentagon for troops transitioning from one gender to the other was upsetting, but he didn’t provide any substantiated reports of this actually being an issue.
According to Pentagon officials, the ban would not eject or interfere with the medical care of transgender troops, until the policy was rolled out. Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis unveiled it in March, with exceptions for those already serving and recruits who are not transitioning to the opposite sex.
In short, the new policy means the current administration would allow transgender people who serve “in their biological sex” without seeking to undergo gender reassignment surgery in the military. The policy also has an exception for troops who began the process of changing their genders under Obama-era rules.
“The Department of Defense’s proposed policy is based on professional military judgment and will ensure that the U.S. armed forces remain the most lethal and combat-effective fighting force in the world,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
Jennifer Levi of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders said the court’s action “means that courageous transgender service members will face discharges while challenges to the ban go forward.”
“The Trump administration’s cruel obsession with ridding our military of dedicated and capable service members because they happen to be transgender defies reason and cannot survive legal review,” Levi said.
According to a Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Pentagon in 2016, there are several thousand transgender troops estimated to be serving in the active-duty force. There are currently 1-million plus active people serving active-duty total.