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Injunctions on Transgender Military Ban Lifted

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Finn Hogan, Chief Editor

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On January 22nd, the Supreme Court announced that they would be lifting injunctions on the Trump administration transgender military ban, allowing the policies to go into effect while the case is still being discussed in lower courts.

Proposed by Trump on Twitter in July 2017, the transgender military ban blocks transgender individuals from enlisting in any branch of the military if they plan on seeking any form of transition. Said individuals can only enlist in the military if they don’t transition, and serve under their “biological sex.” In a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court has decided to lift the injunctions previously placed on this policy.

Pentagon spokeswoman, Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, stated in an emailed statement, “As always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity. The policy  is NOT a ban on service by transgender persons. It is critical that DoD be permitted to implement personnel policies that it determines are necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world.” Gleason stated that the decision was based on military judgement.

A group of lawyers involved in the case have released a brief about the policy, revealing that transgender people have been allowed to serve openly in the military since June 2016. Since then, the government “has presented no evidence that their doing so harms military readiness, effectiveness, or lethality.”

In 2016, the Obama administration ruled that transgender individuals in the military were allowed to serve openly and receive financial support for medical transition. Any transgender individuals wishing to join the military were instructed to enlist before July 2017. When the Trump administration came about, the date of enlisting was delayed under the statement that the administration needed more research on the topic. It was later that month that Trump posted a string of tweets announcing his policy:

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……”

“…. Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..”

“….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you”

Several groups representing transgender individuals sued the Trump administration and won in the early stages of the trials. As a result, the courts ruled that nationwide injunctions be put in place to prevent the Trump administration’s military policy from taking action while the cases move through the lower levels of the courts.

Some news sites speculate that the Supreme Court lifted the injunctions as a result of pressure from the Trump administration. The administration reportedly claimed that the lower level courts were “frustrating” the Supreme Court’s abilities by setting up the nationwide injunctions. The administration also reportedly requested that the justices hear immediate appeals from the two trials prior to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The justices denied the request with no comment.

So what does this mean for transgender citizens?

One such citizen, Jody Davis, spoke out on her difficulties with this policy.

Davis, who is a trans woman (MTF), told PBS.org that she had first joined the Ohio National Guard when she was 17 years old. She served for 8 years and became a sergeant in an armor crew. Now 48 years old and a nurse, Davis is trying to rejoin the National Guard as a part-time officer and social worker, but she may not be allowed to join again because of this ban. “It’s ironic, I’ve already proved myself, and now they say I’m disqualified. I might be able to slip in just under the wire, before the ruling takes effect. If so, it will provide a bit more stability for my family, but that’s not why I’m doing it – I want to serve my country again.”

Like Jody Davis, transgender citizens of the United States will no longer be able to enlist in any branch of the military, unless they agree to no medical forms of transition and to serve under their assigned sex. Individuals who are currently serving in the military and started medical transitioning under the Obama administration are allowed to continue to serve under their correct gender identity and continue their transition.

Trump’s administration has stated that this is not an outright ban of transgender individuals, as “not all transgender persons seek to transition to their preferred gender or have gender dysphoria.”

Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and current chairman of VoteVets.org, is one of many who have spoken out in protest of the policy. Soltz told the New York Times that the Supreme Court has “made it harder for every commander in the military today. They’re literally going to have to look at some of the best troops we have and kick them out for being honest about who they are.”

Aaron Belkin, current director of Palm Center, a research facility that focuses on LGBT individuals in military, has publicly stated that the Defense Department “should not reinstate the transgender ban because it would undermine readiness, cause significant disruptions and uncertainty, deprive the military of much-needed talent, and wreak havoc with the lives and careers of the 14,700 transgender troops bravely protecting our nation’s security.”

The policy will continue to be discussed in lower level courts as the lawsuits continue.

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Injunctions on Transgender Military Ban Lifted