Politics

DC court bars Trump from reversing transgender troops policy

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 15: US President Donald Trump delivers remarks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017 in New York City. A federal court has blocked him from changing the military's policy on transgender people.
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 15: US President Donald Trump delivers remarks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017 in New York City. A federal court has blocked him from changing the military's policy on transgender people.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump's would-be ban on transgender service members in the military has been blocked from going into effect for the foreseeable future.

A U.S. district judge in Washington, D.C., decided on Monday that trans members of the military have a strong case that the president's ban would violate their Fifth Amendment rights. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted a preliminary injunction to keep the policy from going into effect while the court case moves forward.

As a result of her injunction, the military policy on transgender service members will "revert to the status quo," Kollar-Kotelly writes — that is, the policy that was in place before Trump's announcement. That policy allowed trans members currently in the military to serve openly, and for openly trans people to be admitted to serve in the future.

Kollar-Kotelly did not block the portion of the presidential memorandum that blocked military resources from being used to fund "sex reassignment surgical procedures," saying her court does not have jurisdiction over that policy.

Before 2016, service members who came out as trans were "caught in limbo," as NPR has previously reported. They weren't eligible for promotion, and were treated according to their gender assigned at birth. Troops who came out as trans could be discharged purely on the basis of their gender identity. Aspiring soldiers who were openly trans were considered unfit for duty.

In June 2016, after lengthy deliberation, the Pentagon announced a policy change. "Effective immediately, transgender Americans may serve openly," then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said. And within a year, he said, the military would no longer turn away recruits on the basis of trans identity. (The deadline was later extended by six months.)

Then, this July, Trump tweeted that "the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," an announcement that caught many people (including leaders at the Defense Department) by surprise.

The tweet was followed by an official presidential memo in August. The memo called for trans members of the military to, once again, be eligible for discharge based on their gender identity, and for would-be service members who are openly trans to be prohibited from joining the military, effective on Jan. 1, 2018.

The memo did not go as far as Trump's tweets. For instance, whether or not individuals currently serving would be discharged, among other elements of implementing the ban, would be up to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, according to the memo. Any steps taken should be "appropriate and consistent with military effectiveness and lethality, budgetary constraints and applicable law," the instructions stated.

Under the new preliminary injunction, this portion of the memo is unenforceable and the Pentagon policy is once again in effect. That means, unless the policy changes again, openly trans people could begin joining the military on Jan. 1.

This story has been updated.