White House asks court to drop legal challenge to military transgender ban

One of the four court cases challenging President Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military was sloughed off by the Justice Department as it moved to dismiss the litigation last night.

The motion filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) asks the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to file an injunction on Trump’s transgender military ban.

The Trump administration asked the court to dismiss the case on several grounds. The recommendation is only a request and does not reflect a judgement by the court.

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 recommendation also stated in order to issue an injunction, the transgender individuals in the suit must show they will suffer irreparable harm.

“The speculative harms that the plaintiffs believe may occur in the future, once the policy is formulated and implemented, cannot be redressed by the courts equitable powers at this stage,” the recommendation stated.

The recommendation stated DoD is convening a panel of experts to study the issue and the public interest would be harmed if an injunction precluded the Defense Secretary from receiving expert advice.

The organizations filing the original motion were outraged by the response.

“The government’s response reads like pure fiction,” said Jennifer Levi, Director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project.  “It states a fantasy that the President’s announcement of a ban on military service for transgender people has changed nothing.  That’s simply not true.  Every day this reckless ban stays in place, our military strength is diminished and our country is less safe for it.  We are optimistic the Court will see through this smokescreen and halt the ban.”

NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter had a similar reaction.

“Rather than even attempting to defend [the ban], the DOJ is asking the court to turn a blind eye to the devastation the President has caused in the lives of real people and real families,” Minter said. “Because of the President’s ban, smart, dedicated and idealistic young people like our plaintiffs Regan Kibby and Dylan Kohere are barred from fulfilling their dreams of military service.  And transgender people who are already serving have been told that their skills, training and years of dedicated service are not valued. The ban has left them scrambling to make new plans for their futures, just as it has undermined our nation’s security. This is the exact opposite of how military policy should be made.”

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, Belkin 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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