Federal judge lifts block on enforcing Trump admin ban on gender-confused soldiers
BALTIMORE, March 11, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge in Maryland has lifted the final injunction against the Trump administration’s proposed ban on gender-confused soldiers in the U.S. Armed Forces, bringing the legal battle over the policy one step closer to resolution.
The policy, developed after a review spearheaded by former Defense Secretary James Mattis, disqualifies “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria,” specifically those who “may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery,” except in “certain limited circumstances.”
The ban was immediately challenged in court, leading four separate courts to issue temporary injunctions against enforcing it. In January, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated an injunction by District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, followed by the U.S. Supreme Court staying two others, The Hill reports.
U.S. District Judge George Russell III, who was appointed by former president Barack Obama, ruled Thursday that he was “bound by the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the preliminary injunctions in their entirety,” lifting the final injunction.
The policy will not yet take effect, however.
“The department is pleased with the district court’s decision to stay the final injunction against the department’s proposed transgender policy,” Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said in a statement. “The 2016 policy [allowing transgender troops] will remain in effect until the department issues further guidance, which will be forthcoming in the near future.”
The Department of Justice is “pleased this procedural hurdle has been cleared” and the Department of Defense “will be able to implement personnel policies it determined necessary to best defend our nation as litigation continues,” Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco added, CNN reports.
The left-wing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a statement calling Russell’s decision “deeply disappointing” and vowing to “continue to fight against this discriminatory policy and the Trump administration’s attacks on transgender people.”
Last week, the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee heard testimony for and against the ban. Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency, testified that the military has observed transgenderism-related issues that groups such as the American Medical Association fail to recognize, such as higher numbers of visits to mental health professionals and more frequent suicidal thoughts.
The ban was developed after “extensive study by senior uniformed and civilian leaders, including combat veterans,” according to the White House and as detailed in a memo from former secretary Mattis. The American Psychiatric Association still classifies gender dysphoria as a mental disorder.
The Supreme Court’s January order lifting the injunctions was not a decision on the merits of the case, which will continue to be litigated in the lower courts. Last November, the Trump administration asked the justices to fast-track the case instead of waiting for the lower courts, which they declined to do.