Transgender Recruitment to Begin Unless Courts Intervene

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Shelby Kay-Fantozzi)
(U.S. Air Force graphic/Shelby Kay-Fantozzi)

The military will begin accepting transgender recruits next week unless courts intervene to grant a delay on rulings against President Donald Trump's proposed ban.

In its latest legal setback, the Trump administration lost again last week on its appeal for a temporary restraining order to block a series of lower court rulings ordering the military to begin taking in transgender recruits on Jan. 1.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last Friday refused the administration's request for a delay on the lower court rulings that a ban on transgender recruits was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

In its ruling, the three-judge panel said administration officials "have not shown a strong likelihood that they will succeed on the merits of their challenge to the district court's order."

The Washington appeals court decision, and a similar ruling earlier by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, made it more likely that the case will go to the Supreme Court.

However, the Defense Department has already said that transgender recruitments will go ahead beginning Jan. 1 as the court battles continue.

In July, Trump tweeted the federal government "will not accept or allow" transgender individuals to serve "in any capacity" in the military.

Trump's proposed ban would a reverse a 2016 policy change by the administration of President Barack Obama allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military.

Trump later formally directed the Pentagon to extend indefinitely a ban on transgender individuals joining the military, and he gave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis six months to come up with a policy on how to deal with those currently serving.

Advocacy groups and transgender individuals currently serving in the military quickly filed suits against Trump's ban.

On Dec. 8, in response to lower court rulings against Trump's ban, the Pentagon issued formal guidance to recruiters on accepting transgender enlistments and also said the military would comply with the lower court rulings to begin recruitments in 2018.

In one of the lower court rulings against the administration, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in October rejected the administration's argument that allowing the recruitment of transgender individuals would be disruptive to good order and discipline.

"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 the case of Doe v. Trump.

"Especially in light of the record evidence showing, with specifics, that considerable work has already been done [by DoD], the Court is not convinced by the vague claims in [the administration's] declaration that a stay is needed," Kollar-Kotelly said.

"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," she said.

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

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