In yet another defeat for Trump, a federal judge in Washington blocked President Trump’s executive order banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
After Trump announced the ban in July, transgender service members fought back, accusing the president of violating their constitutional rights. Several service members sued in August to try to block the ban.
Now, U.S. district Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has granted them an injunction, halting enforcement of the ban until the case is resolved.
Kollar-Kotelly stated she believes the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their claim that the ban was unconstitutional because the Trump administration’s reasons for it “do not appear to be supported by facts.”
However, the judge did allow for the delayed transgender enlistment policy, a policy instated by Defense Secretary James Matts, which delays the accession of transgender troops by six months.
The Trump administration argued in court that because the ban hasn’t gone into affect yet no one has legal grounds to challenge it. The judge disagreed, stating:
“These arguments, while perhaps compelling in the abstract, wither away under scrutiny. The Memorandum unequivocally directs the military to prohibit indefinitely the accession of transgender individuals and to authorize their discharge. This decision has already been made. These directives must be executed by a date certain, and there is no reason to believe that they will not be executed.”
Furthermore, “no argument or evidence suggesting that being transgender in any way limits one’s ability to contribute to society.”
Transgender individuals have immutable and distinguishing characteristics that make them a discernable class. As a class, transgender individuals have suffered, and continue to suffer, severe persecution and discrimination. Despite this discrimination, the Court is aware of no argument or evidence suggesting that being transgender in any way limits one’s ability to contribute to society. The exemplary military service of Plaintiffs in this case certainly suggests that it does not. Finally, transgender people as a group represent a very small subset of society lacking the sort of political power other groups might harness to protect themselves from discrimination.
The Accession and Retention Directives’ exclusion of transgender individuals inherently discriminates against current and aspiring service members on the basis of their failure to conform to gender stereotypes. The defining characteristic of a transgender individual is that their inward identity, behavior, and possibly their physical characteristics, do not conform to stereotypes of how an individual of their assigned sex should feel, act and look. By excluding an entire category of people from military service on this characteristic alone, the Accession and Retention Directives punish individuals for failing to adhere to gender stereotypes.
A service member who was born a male is punished by the Accession and Retention Directives if he identifies as a woman, whereas that same service member would be free to join and remain in the military if he was born a female, or if he agreed to act in the way society expects males to act. The Accession and Retention Directives are accordingly inextricably intertwined with gender classifications.
Trump’s executive order was attempting to reverse the move by former President Obama that barred the military from refusing to let people enlist based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Trump’s order was set to take effect next March and would have forced out any current service members who had safely come out already.