One of President Donald Trump’s first attacks against the LGBTQ community in office was a July 2017 attempt to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. But several federal judges blocked the ban from taking effect, allowing trans recruits to join the armed forces while the issue awaited a final ruling. Today, January 22nd, the Supreme Court has weighed in on the matter, allowing the ban on transgender military members to proceed for the time being.
According to CNN, SCOTUS gave the government permission to enact the policy while the lower courts continue to debate it. All four liberal justices voted against allowing the ban to take effect, with all five conservative justices voting in favor of it. However, CNN notes that the policy doesn’t ban all trans military members. Under the guidelines proposed by former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, those diagnosed with gender dysphoria are prevented from serving (although there are some exceptions). Transgender recruits without the diagnosis can only serve as the gender they were assigned at birth—meaning they can’t seek gender confirmation surgery while in the military. According to NPR, trans people were first allowed to openly serve in June 2016.
As The New York Times reports, the Supreme Court must wait to hear a court of appeals’ decision on the case before it can issue its final ruling. The only exception to this requirement is if the case is deemed to have “such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice.” If the Supreme Court doesn’t rule on the policy by June, it will have to wait until the court reconvenes in October.
Lambda Legal, a nonprofit legal defense organization focusing on LGBTQ rights, was one of the groups to help file a lawsuit over the proposed policy. In light of the Supreme Court’s preliminary ruling, the organization tweeted that “we are redoubling our efforts to fight this.”
Barring trans people from joining the military—even temporarily—is an unacceptable attack on LGBTQ rights and a slap in the face to all the transgender service people risking their lives for their country. We stand with LGBTQ+ community as they continue this fight.