By Owen Lee, Staff Writer
On Monday, October 30, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, represented by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, blocked President Trump’s proposed plan to prevent transgender Americans to serve in the military. Specifically she issued a preliminary injunction, due to a high probability that the ban would be deemed unconstitutional in a formal lawsuit. The injunction will remain in place until the lawsuit is resolved or the judge lifts it.
This blockage allows for a return to the 2016 Pentagon decision to legally allow open transgender men and women to serve in the military. This is the first major ruling with regards to the president’s directive, which appears to have lost the momentum it could’ve used to be passed into law.
On July 26, 2017, President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that transgender people would not be allowed in the military, citing alleged “tremendous medical costs and disruption” attributed to transgender soldiers. These tweets were followed by a memo in August to the Pentagon, demanding they discharge transgender service members, and prevent any more from enlisting. The ruling would have been made effective on January 1, 2018, affecting anywhere between 1,320 to 6,630 transgender troops, had it not been blocked.
However, Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the memorandum violated the Fifth Amendment Rights of any transgender personnel who wished to pursue a lawsuit. She drew attention to the lack of noticeable deliberation on the President’s part, the contradiction with the conclusions of military leaders, and the apparent abuse of “historically persecuted and politically powerless individuals.” In her injunction, Kollar-Kotelly wrote that the President’s orders “do not appear to be supported by any facts.”
This result is lauded by GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who sued on behalf of eight currently serving transgender service members. These people remain anonymous, although they work in the Air Force, the Coast Guard, the Armed Forces, and even the U.S Naval Academy. The Justice Department sought a dismissal of the suit, claiming that the plaintiffs had not established that they would be directly impacted in the current policy, but Kollar-Kotelly argued against this claim. Other lawsuits have been filed in Seattle and Baltimore.
Before the 2016 policy change, announced by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, transgender service members were treated as their assigned gender, deemed unfit for promotion, and often discharged on the basis of their status as a transgender person.
While the presidential directive has been partially blocked, Kollar-Kotelly did not rule against one specific area, the prevention of using military resources to fund “sex reassignment surgical procedures.” She claimed her court does not have jurisdiction over that aspect of the directive.
This setback is one among many for President Trump, including the numerous failed efforts his Republican Party made to replace the Affordable Care Act, and his blocked Executive Order to ban travel to the U.S. from major Muslim countries.