Gay rights advocates celebrated a federal court decision Monday that prevents the Pentagon from enforcing the Trump administration’s ban on transgender troops.
In response to a lawsuit filed by GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction on the ban, requiring the Pentagon to “revert to the status quo” set in June 2016, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced transgender troops could no longer be kicked out for their gender identity.
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Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of GLAAD, an LGBTQ media advocacy organization, called the decision “a major step forward in exposing President Trump’s policy as a hate-fueled attack.”
“Today’s victory reflects what a majority of Americans have been saying: that transgender service members should be thanked and not relegated to second-class citizenship,” she said.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed its own lawsuit in Maryland on behalf of six currently serving transgender troops, predicted that Monday’s decision — the first to strike down the ban — “won’t be the last.”
“The federal courts are recognizing what everyone already knows to be true: President Trump’s impulsive decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military service was blatantly unconstitutional,” said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
President Donald Trump tweeted in July that transgender troops would no longer be able to serve in the military “in any capacity,” then followed up with official guidance that ordered the Pentagon to begin implementing the ban by March.
The court’s ruling means the military cannot kick out transgender troops who are now serving and must continue to provide them medical care. But recruitment of transgender troops will still be delayed until Jan. 1 under an order previously issued by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
LGBT military advocacy groups estimate that about 15,000 transgender troops are currently serving. The American Military Partner’s Association, which represents LGBT military spouses, said the court’s decision “gives our military families hope that justice will ultimately prevail.”
The White House declined to comment on the legal hurdles the administration’s ban would face as a result of the decision. But legal experts said they expect the government to appeal the ruling to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond’s School of Law, said the ruling from District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who he called a “really experienced judge,” is likely to carry a lot of weight. She was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton.
“She enjoys a lot of respect in D.C. and around the country and has ruled in a lot of difficult cases,” he said. “Given the composition of the D.C. Circuit and the care with which she has crafted this opinion, my sense is the government is not likely to win in D.C. Circuit Court.”
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