The United States Supreme Court has allowed President Donald Trump to enforce his policy of banning certain transgender people from the military. The Justices did not rule on the merits of the case, but will allow the ban to go forward while the lower courts work through it.The four liberal justices on the Court objected to allowing the administration’s policy banning most transgender people from serving in the military to go into effect.
The policy prohibits “transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition” from serving.
The Trump administration had also appealed for an expedited ruling on the case, which the Supreme Court declined to take up.
The president announced on Twitter in 2017 that the country would no longer “accept or allow” transgender Americans to serve in the military, citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption”.
Former defence secretary Jim Mattis refined the policy to limit it to transgender individuals with a history of gender dysphoria, or when a person’s biological sex and identity does not match.
He said the new policy would make exceptions for several hundred transgender people already serving openly or willing to serve “in their biological sex”.
There are currently some 8,980 active duty transgender troops, according to Department of Defence data analysed by the Palm Center, a public policy nonprofit.
Gen Mattis in his memo argued that “by its very nature, military service requires sacrifice,” and that those who serve “voluntarily accept limitations on their personal liberties”.
The move is a reversal of an Obama administration policy that ruled transgender Americans could serve openly in the military as well as obtain funding for gender re-assignment surgery.
One injunction was reversed in a federal appeals court earlier this month, with a three-judge panel ruling the policy was not a “blanket ban” on transgender troops, and so the courts should defer to the executive branch’s military decisions.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco had described the transgender ban in his fast-track appeal as “an issue of imperative public importance” regarding the military’s authority “to determine who may serve”.
Mr Franscisco acknowledged the RAND figures in the appeal, but argued “the realities associated with service by transgender individuals are more complicated than the prior administration or RAND had assumed”.