Federal judge orders military to begin accepting transgender troops on January 1

A federal judge clarified Monday that her ruling against the Trump administration requires that the military allow transgender people to begin enlisting on January 1.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a Clinton appointee to the D.C. circuit, had previously ordered back in October that President Donald Trump’s order banning transgender people from serving in the military be suspended and that the retention and accession policies revert to the status quo. Before Trump’s order, the retention policy was that trans servicemembers already serving could not be removed for their gender identity, and the accession policy was set to allow trans people to begin joining the military as of January 1, 2018 — having been delayed six months by Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The Trump administration appealed this decision last week, and also sought clarification about whether Mattis was, in fact, prohibited by the order from further deferring the beginning of the accession policy. In Monday’s order, Kollar-Kotelly confirmed that yes, she meant it when she ordered a return to the status quo in regards to the retention and accession policies.

“Those policies allowed for the accession of transgender individuals into the military beginning on January 1, 2018,” she wrote. The following sentence was then underlined for emphasis: “Any action by any of the Defendants that changes this status quo is preliminarily enjoined.”

In other words, Trump’s order was so incompetently devised that his administration cannot be trusted to make any further changes in regards to transgender people’s service.

Kollar-Ketelly is not the only judge to rule as such. Last week, a federal judge in Maryland similarly granted an injunction against the ban that went even further. According to District Judge Marvin Garbis, not only must the retention and accession policies revert to the status quo, but the administration is also prohibited from enforcing Trump’s ban on covering the costs of transition-related surgeries.

Most of the effects of Trump’s order were not set to take effect until March of next year, though the deferment of the accession policy would of course be relevant as of January 1. As the appeals process in these cases proceeds, it’s possible higher courts may lift the injunctions, which would allow the administration to keep the ban on trans enlistment in place and possibly begin enforcing the rest of the order in March. Given the ferocity with which two judges have smacked down the ban so far, that seems unlikely.


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