On Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to grant a request from the Trump administration to allow it to temporarily enforce restrictions on transgender people serving in the United States military, though they did not agree to review the legality of the new policy. Justices Ruther Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented.
The administration’s request was submitted by Solicitor General Noel Francisco last November before regional appeals courts had a chance to rule on the issue. Francisco urged the Supreme Court to take the case, stating that a district court’s injunction blocked a policy “necessary to place the Department of Defense (DoD) in the strongest position to protect the American people.”
According to Francisco, a DoD review found that allowing people who are seeking to or have already transitioned posed a threat to military effectiveness and readiness.
President Donald Trump first announced the transgender ban in a July 2017 tweet, saying “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis ultimately issued an order disqualifying from service anyone who seeks to transition, or who has already transitioned, as well as anyone who has a diagnosis or history of gender dysphoria. However, the order included exemptions for active duty members already openly serving.
Attorneys for several active duty military members have vowed to continue fighting. In a statement, Lambda Legal, which filed one of the lawsuits, said:
“For more than 30 months, transgender troops have been serving our country openly with valor and distinction, but now the rug has been ripped out from under them, once again. We will redouble our efforts to send this discriminatory ban to the trash heap of history where it belongs.”
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, an estimated 15,000 transgender people currently serve in the U.S. military. The ban now calls into question their careers. In a statement, Mara Keisling, executive director for the Center, said:
The Court’s extraordinary action today puts the honorable service of thousands of troops and military readiness on the line. The military sets a core standard of unity and acceptance for American society, with implications extending past military bases and recruitment offices, and that is the goal of the Trump-Pence administration. Today’s action is an attack on transgender people around the nation. President Trump’s attempts to defend this ban are as farcical as ever and only serve to defame thousands of transgender troops. It is more important than ever for Congress to act immediately to defend thousands of brave and honorable transgender service members from this thoughtlessly destructive President.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice seemed to celebrate the move. Spokesperson Kerri Kupec stated:
“We are pleased the Supreme Court granted stays in these cases, clearing the way for the policy to go into effect while litigation continues. The Department of Defense has the authority to create and implement personnel policies it has determined are necessary to best defend our nation. Due to lower courts issuing nationwide injunctions, our military had been forced to maintain a prior policy that poses a risk to military effectiveness and lethality for over a year. We will continue to defend in the courts the authority and ability of the Pentagon to ensure the safety and security of the American people.”
Legal challenges to the policy will continue, and it’s possible that the ban will eventually be struck down. In the meantime, the careers of transgender people currently serving in the military are now in question.
Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.