D.C. Court Rules Against Ban on Transgender Military Service

The US District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday issued an injunction against portions of President Trump's ban on transgender individuals serving in the US military and ordered the Defense Department to revert to its previous retention and accession policy. Here, SSgt. Ashleigh Buch, an instructor with the 338th Combat Training Squadron at Offutt AFB, Neb., stands on the Offutt Parade Field Oct. 20, 2016. Buch was the first openly serving transgender airman to be recommended for a return to flying duties. Air Force photo by SrA. Rachel Hammes.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday issued a temporary injunction against portions of President Donald Trump’s memorandum directing the Department of Defense to ban transgender members from serving in the US military.

Under the injunction, the DOD must revert to its previous retention and accession policy, which protects the status of transgender people already serving in the military but is undecided on whether to allow new transgender accessions. The court did not rule on the Trump memorandum’s refusal to continue paying for medical care related to gender transition.

On July 26, Trump tweeted that “the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US military.”

One month later, he followed up that announcement with the memorandum, which directed the DOD to disallow future transgender accessions, prohibited the DOD from paying for gender transition-related medical care, and allowed the Secretary of Defense to decide the fate of transgender persons currently serving in the military.

Monday’s ruling comes in a case filed by GLAD and the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of five US military members, including an airman with almost 20 years of service and two tours in Iraq. The suit claimed on fifth amendment grounds Trump’s memorandum violated the due process rights of transgender persons, and it asked the court to block the directives laid out in the memorandum.

The court based its opposition to the memorandum on several factors, including “the sheer breadth of the exclusion” and “the unusual circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement.” The ruling also says that the reasons given for the transgender ban in Trump’s memorandum “do not appear to be supported by any facts” and were recently rejected “by the military itself.”

As a result, the court ordered the Department of Defense to “revert to the status quo with regard to accession and retention that existed before the issuance of the presidential memorandum.”

The court did not rule on the prohibition against DOD spending on gender transition medical care because, on this issue, the presidential memorandum “has not effected a definitive change in military policy,” but “that policy is still subject to review.” As such, the court said that “no plaintiff has established a likelihood of being impacted by that prohibition.”