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Fed Watch: In Victory for Equal Rights, Federal Court Blocks Trump Administration’s Transgender Military Ban

In July, Donald Trump announced via Twitter that the United States will not “accept or allow” transgender service members in the U.S. military. The Trump administration formalized this policy the following month in a Presidential Memorandum (“Memorandum”) that sought to indefinitely extend an existing ban against transgender individuals entering the military, in addition to requiring the military to authorize the discharge of current transgender service members by March 23, 2018. The Memorandum effectively reversed existing Department of Defense policy prohibiting the discriminatory discharge of service members based solely on their gender identity and allowing for the enlistment of openly transgender service members beginning on January 1, 2018.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) swiftly filed a lawsuit in federal court, Doe v. Trump, challenging the Memorandum on behalf of current and aspiring transgender service members. In a big victory, the court today issued a preliminary injunction against the administration’s so-called transgender military ban, which means that the ban cannot take effect during the time it takes the court to fully hear and decide the case.

While today’s ruling is not the court’s final decision on the matter, its findings are promising: “[A] number of factors—including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the [Memorandum’s] directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement of them, the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself—strongly suggest that Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious.” In other words, the court believes the Trump administration’s transgender military ban most likely violates the U.S. Constitution.

We extend our congratulations to our friends at NCLR and GLAD and their clients, and we are optimistic that justice will prevail for transgender individuals currently serving and hoping to serve in the U.S. military.