Trump Administration Appeals Court Order Allowing Transgender Recruits

In this Sunday, June 11, 2017, file photo, Equality March for Unity and Pride participants march past the White House in Washington. Carolyn Kaster/AP
In this Sunday, June 11, 2017, file photo, Equality March for Unity and Pride participants march past the White House in Washington. Carolyn Kaster/AP

The Justice Department has appealed lower court rulings rejecting President Donald Trump's ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.

Late Monday, Justice Department lawyers filed motions to appeal two lower court rulings to the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia in an effort to delay orders for the Defense Department to begin accepting transgender recruits Jan. 1.

The motions argued that moving ahead on transgender recruits would "place extraordinary burdens on our armed forces and may harm military readiness."

The appeal was filed after Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday rejected the administration's request for a delay on transgender recruitments.

"The Court is not persuaded that Defendants [the Trump administration] will be irreparably injured" by meeting the New Year's Day deadline, Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her ruling.

In a similar case, federal Judge Marvin Garbis in Baltimore also ruled against a delay and in addition blocked the administration from denying funding for sex reassignment surgeries in the military.

In his ruling last month, Garbis said that currently serving transgender service members were "already suffering harmful consequences" and prohibited the administration "from blocking those challenging the ban from completing their medically necessary surgeries."

In appealing the two lower court rulings, the Justice Department argued that the lawsuits against Trump's ban were baseless while a Pentagon study on the impact of transgenders in the ranks is ongoing.

"Plaintiffs' lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements," the Justice Department said in a statement.

In a statement Monday, the Pentagon said it was going ahead with plans to accept transgender recruits beginning Jan. 1 while the legal battles continue.

However, the statement added, "DoD and the Department of Justice are actively pursuing relief from those court orders in order to allow an ongoing policy review scheduled to be completed before the end of March."

In her October ruling granting a preliminary injunction against the Trump ban, Kollar-Kotelly sided with plaintiffs in the case who argued that Trump's move to bar transgender recruits and to discharge transgender individuals already in the ranks was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

"There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all," Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

On July 26, the president in a series of tweets announced his intention to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.

Trump said the government would no longer "accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military."

He followed up the tweets with a memo to the Defense Department ordering a ban and directing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to conduct a study on the effects and costs of transgenders in the ranks.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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