Court delivers blow to Trump’s military transgender ban

The District Court for the District of Columbia gave a huge blow to President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military, ordering the Pentagon to keep transgender people in the service and to continue recruiting them until the court makes its final decision.

The court ruling issued on Oct. 30 stated the reasons given for the ban “do not appear to be supported by any facts.”

The “arguments, while perhaps compelling in the abstract, wither away under scrutiny,” the opinion stated.

The ruling gives a tenuous amount of job security to transgender people currently serving in the military who spent the time from the announcement of the ban in July wondering if they would have jobs.

The court also upheld transgender troops rights to receive medical care related to gender dysphoria from the military.

There are as many as 15,000 transgender people currently serving in the military.

The case was brought by eight transgender service members with help from National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders. Many of the plaintiffs deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The case also included plaintiffs who serve in the military academies, like transgender midshipman Regan Kibby.

“Kibby’s father served in the Navy, and Kibby has wanted to follow in his footsteps from an early age. He spent his summers in high school attending seminars at military academies. Despite being accepted with full scholarships to other schools, Kibby immediately decided to enroll at the Naval Academy when he was accepted. He has now successfully completed his first two years of school and hopes to become a Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy after graduation,” the case stated.

Earlier this month, the White House asked the court to drop the case.

The Justice Department recommended dismissing the case because the challenge is “premature.” The department’s motion stated the Defense Department still does not have an official policy on transgender people serving in the military. Furthermore, the interim policy released by DoD on Sept. 14 does not separate or deny reenlistment to any transgender individuals serving in the military. Transgender troops are also provided medical treatment under the current policy.

The court clearly did not agree with the administration’s argument.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia issued amicus briefs supporting the transgender plaintiffs.

The states, which included Maryland, Pennsylvania, California, Iowa, New Mexico and others, claimed the ban will harm the states and their residents.

“All States play important roles — both direct and indirect — in providing for our collective security and have an interest in ensuring the strongest, most inclusive military possible. We also share an interest in avoiding becoming entangled in discriminatory federal policies. The administration’s decision to reinstitute a ban on open service by transgender individuals harms all of these interests. It also harms the Amici States’ veterans, active service members, and those who wish to serve, and our transgender communities more broadly,” the brief stated.

Trump announced the ban during a series of tweets on July 26.

Those tweets were followed by an Aug. 25 guidance banning transgender troops in the military on a case-by-case basis, prohibiting future transgender people from joining the military and disallowing the government from paying for transition services for transgender troops.

On Aug. 29 Defense Secretary James Mattis announced the military will “develop a study and implementation plan, which will contain the steps that will promote military readiness, lethality and unit cohesion, with due regard for budgetary constraints and consistent with applicable law” with the transgender troop ban.

DoD issued an interim policy in September basically holding the status quo until the review is finished.

What more Mattis will get out of the process remains to be seen, Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center said.

“It’s never bad to have more information, but that having been said, the topic has already been studied to death and every study has come up with the same conclusion, which is that inclusive policy for LGBT troops promotes readiness. If Secretary Mattis undertakes a fair and comprehensive process, he will reach the same conclusion as every other researcher,” Belkin said.

Two of the most recent and widely circulated studies on the cost and effect of transgender troops in the military come from the RAND Corporation and the New England Journal of Medicine.

The RAND study stated the cost of keeping transgender individuals and new recruits in the military is estimated to cost between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually in total.

The New England Journal of Medicine study, which was conducted by Belkin, stated the provision of transition-related care will cost the military $5.6 million annually, or 22 cents per [military] member per month.

The military would also lose its investment in the transgender troops it’s already trained, some of which include pilots, doctors and other positions DoD is short on.

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