Judge Won't Stop Enlistment of Trans Troops

Trump and Kollar-Kotelly

A federal judge today turned down the Trump administration’s request to delay enlistment of transgender people in the military beyond January 1.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia turned away the Justice Department’s request, which it filed last week, Reuters reports. The department had asked for an emergency stay of the judge’s order that recruitment begin January 1, saying that accepting trans enlistees while “completing a comprehensive study” of the policy “would waste significant military resources and sow unnecessary confusion among service members and applicants.”

Kollar-Kotelly, however, noted that comprehensive study of the policy on transgender troops had been completed long ago, under President Barack Obama, when his administration lifted the ban on trans service members — a ban that Donald Trump wants to reinstate. “The directive from the Secretary of Defense requiring the military to prepare to begin allowing accession of transgender individuals was issued on June 30, 2016 — nearly one and a half years ago,” she wrote, according to Reuters.

Ash Carter, Defense secretary under Obama, announced the end of the ban that date, immediately allowing trans troops to serve openly without fear of discharge, and said the military would begin accepting new trans recruits July 1 of this year. Trump’s Defense secretary, Jim Mattis, delayed that until January 1. Then Trump announced reinstatement of the trans ban and ordered the military to prepare for implementation of it.

In October, Kollar-Kotelly had issued a preliminary injunction against reinstatement of the ban, blocking it from going into effect until the case she is hearing proceeds through the courts. She is hearing one of four lawsuits against the ban, and she said the plaintiffs, current and aspiring trans service members, are likely to succeed in their argument that the ban violates their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of the law. In one of the other lawsuits, another federal judge has issued a similar injunction. Kollar-Kotelly subsequently, in response to another Justice Department filing, clarified that her order did indeed mean that acceptance of new trans recruits must begin January 1.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, the two groups handling the lawsuit Kollar-Kotelly is hearing, praised her action today in a joint press release.

“Trump administration claims that our highly sophisticated military is unprepared to implement a minor policy change after more than a year of preparation are simply not credible,” said NCLR legal director Shannon Minter. “The military has studied this issue extensively and determined that permitting qualified transgender people to enlist and serve will only strengthen our nation’s armed forces. This administration’s claim that allowing transgender people to enlist will lessen military preparedness is contradicted by the military’s own conclusions.”

 “It’s time to stop stalling and move forward,” said GLAD transgender rights project director Jennifer Levi. “The military has had nearly a year and a half to be ready to implement an enlistment policy its own leaders created and adopted. High ranking military leaders who oversaw training when the military made the first changes to transgender service policies have said the military is ready to accept transgender enlistees. This administration needs to stop creating fake problems and get on with it.”

Further praise came from Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD. "Today's legal victory is the latest step towards preventing Trump's bigoted trans military ban from ever going into full effect," she said in a press release. "The Trump administration is struggling to provide any evidence that open trans enlistment be must be delayed because none exists beyond their own hate-fueled anti-LGBTQ agenda."

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