Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Second Judge Blocks Trump's Trans Military Ban

Plaintiff Brock Stone

Another federal judge has blocked Donald Trump’s ban on military service by transgender people.

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis in Maryland today ruled that the ban cannot be enforced while a suit brought by six transgender military members moves through the courts, The Washington Post reports. His ruling follows a similar one issued in October by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Garbis ruled that transgender military members are already being harmed by the ban, even though it has yet to go into full effect. They have “demonstrated that they are already suffering harmful consequences such as the cancellation and postponements of surgeries, the stigma of being set apart as inherently unfit, facing the prospect of discharge and inability to commission as an officer, the inability to move forward with long-term medical plans, and the threat to their prospects of obtaining long-term assignments,” he wrote.

The ban, he added, likely violates the U.S. Constitution. “A capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified tweet of new policy does not trump the methodical and systematic review by military stakeholders qualified to understand the ramifications of policy changes,” he wrote.

His ruling goes somewhat further than Kollar-Kotelly’s in explicitly saying the government cannot stop funding for gender-affirming medical and surgical procedures, although LGBT advocates said her ruling definitely allowed for this and other medical benefits.

Trump announced the ban via Twitter in July, and its implementation included a stop to government-funded transition procedures (something sought by very few military members, belying right-wing objections to the cost) and indefinite continuation on the ban on new transgender recruits.

Discharge of current trans troops was scheduled to take effect in March. But Garbis and Kollar-Kotelly’s rulings have now returned the situation to what it was before Trump’s July tweets, with the policy returned, at least temporarily, to that set by the Obama administration last year, with current troops able to serve openly and receive all medically necessary care, and enlistment of new ones to begin July 1.

The trans troops in the Maryland case are Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone, Senior Airman John Doe, Airman First Class Seven Ero George, Petty Officer First Class Teagan Gilbert, Staff Sergeant Kate Cole, and Technical Sergeant Tommie Parker. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, its Maryland affiliate, and Covington & Burling LLP.

“Today is a victory for transgender service members across the country,” said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, in a press release. “We’re pleased that the courts have stepped in to ensure that trans service members are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, which brought the suit that led to Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling, also praised Garbis’s decision. “Today’s ruling brings more hope to transgender service members and those who want to serve,” said NCLR legal director Shannon Minter in a press release. “The court agreed with the legal analysis in Doe v. Trump, which enjoined the ban in October, and held that President Trump’s ban violates the requirement of equal protection, causes serious harms both to our nation’s military and to transgender people, and serve no legitimate purpose whatsoever.  Every court that rules against the ban brings us closer and closer to a permanent end to this nightmare.”

“Today’s ruling reiterates the clear and powerful reasoning in Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s decision last month to preliminarily halt the ban,” added Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project. “Two federal courts now agree that President Trump’s ban is unconstitutional, unfounded, and needlessly attacks brave transgender service members who put their lives on the line every day for our country. This decision brings us one step closer to stopping the transgender military ban for good.”

The Trump administration today filed an appeal of Kollar-Kotelly’s preliminary injunction against the ban in Doe v. Trump. This shows the administration is “digging in its heels," Minter noted. Two other suits have been brought against the ban as well and are making their way through the courts.

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