Amid all the other hullabaloo today, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to lift the nationwide injunctions that were preventing the President’s ban on transgender people serving in the US military.
From The Associated Press:
The Trump administration can go ahead with its plan to restrict military service by transgender men and women while court challenges continue, the Supreme Court said Tuesday.
The high court split 5-4 in allowing the plan to take effect, with the court’s five conservatives greenlighting it and its four liberal members saying they would not have. The order from the court was brief and procedural, with no elaboration from the justices.
The court’s decision clears the way for the Pentagon to bar enlistment by people who have undergone a gender transition. It will also allow the administration to require that military personnel serve as members of their biological gender unless they began a gender transition under less restrictive Obama administration rules.
The Trump administration has sought for more than a year to change the Obama-era rules and had urged the justices to take up cases about its transgender troop policy immediately, but the court declined for now.
Those cases will continue to move through lower courts and could eventually reach the Supreme Court again. The fact that five justices were willing to allow the policy to take effect for now, however, makes it more likely the Trump administration’s policy will ultimately be upheld.
Both the Justice and Defense departments released statements saying they were pleased by the Supreme Court’s action. The Pentagon said its policy on transgender troops is based on professional military judgment and necessary to “ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force.” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said lower court rulings had forced the military to “maintain a prior policy that poses a risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”
Before beginning to implement its policy the administration is expected to need to make a procedural filing in one case in Maryland challenging the plan. That request could be made this week.
Groups that sued over the Trump administration’s policy said they ultimately hoped to win their lawsuits over the policy. Jennifer Levi, an attorney for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said in a statement that the “Trump administration’s cruel obsession with ridding our military of dedicated and capable service members because they happen to be transgender defies reason and cannot survive legal review.”
More at the link.
Today’s lifting of the nationwide stay on the President’s policy is frustrating, but it is not the end of the case. The Supreme Court majority – its five conservative/GOP appointed justices – were willing to lift the nation wide stay, but not consolidate and fast track the separate cases wending through the Federal court system. This means that these separate suits to overturn the policy will continue through the courts and it is possible that as they proceed through the appellate phase that new injunctions will be implemented. As disturbing and discouraging as today’s ruling is, it is not the last word on this issue. It is entirely possible that the various suits take so long to get through the Federal courts, which will largely close on Monday because of the partial government shutdown, that a Democratic administration will come into office and reverse the ruling. That is small comfort, but the fight isn’t over.
And it is very important to continue this fight. Especially because the President’s decision to do this was not driving by a request from then Secretary of Defense Mattis. This was a completely unnecessary policy change. It will actually have real negative effects on readiness by making it harder to make recruiting quotas and by driving Americans who feel called, for whatever reason, to serve in the military away from that service. There’s no way to know for sure, but the President’s decision to change this policy on the fly was likely driven by the Vice President and his senior policy advisor Stephen Miller. This type of pointlessly cruel policy is just their speed.
It is also important to know that important, high visibility veterans, both cis and transgender, are planning to fight on.
Here’s Senator Duckworth’s response:
DUCKWORTH STATEMENT ON SUPREME COURT ORDER ON MILITARY TRANSGENDER BAN
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — In response to the Supreme Court’s order this morning allowing Donald Trump’s discriminatory ban on transgender servicemembers to take effect, combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) released the following statement:
“When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter on that dusty field in Iraq, I didn’t care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white, male or female. All that mattered was they didn’t leave me behind. If you are willing to risk your life for our country and you can do the job, you should be able to serve—no matter your gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Today’s decision is disheartening not only because it will help the Trump Administration discriminate against an ever-shrinking portion of our population who are willing to serve in uniform, but also because it enables the Administration to further disrupt to our military and weaken our national security.
“I hope the Court takes up this case and loudly and clearly tells the Administration that this sort of discrimination has no place in our military, and I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress will send the same message and show our servicemembers that we have their backs.”
And here’s retired Senior Chief Special Warfare Officer and former member of Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) Kristin Beck’s response:
Senator Duckworth and Chief Beck are fighting, in the words of the DEVGRU motto, For Something Greater.