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Judge denies Trump request to delay transgender military enlistment
The Trump administration must accept transgender recruits into the military by Jan. 1, a federal judge ruled Monday.
The decision prevents a ban on enlisting new transgender troops that the administration had sought to implement after an earlier injunction against the president's order.
"The court will not stay its preliminary injunction pending defendants' appeal," Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia wrote Monday.
"In sum, having carefully considered all of the evidence before it, the court is not persuaded that defendants will be irreparably injured by allowing the accession of transgender individuals into the military beginning on January 1, 2018."
The Pentagon in a statement said it would begin processing transgender recruits for military service on Jan 1 while the Department of Justice appeals the court orders.
"As required by recent federal district court orders, the Department of Defense recently announced it will begin processing transgender applicants for military service on January 1, 2018," it said. "This policy will be implemented while the Department of Justice appeals those court orders."
The administration tried to delay enlisting new transgender troops after Kollar-Kotelly issued an injunction against the transgender ban President Trump announced on Twitter in July and made official with a memo in August.
In October, Kollar-Kotelly blocked the ban from taking effect while a lawsuit against it works its way through court.
The lawsuit was brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) on behalf of six unnamed service members and two recruits.
Last month, after a motion by the Trump administration, Kollar-Kotelly issued a follow-up ruling clarifying the earlier one that said the injunction means the military must accept transgender recruits by Jan. 1, as it had planned to do prior to Trump's ban.
The Trump administration has appealed the ruling on the injunction and last week filed the emergency motion asking for a stay on the requirement to accept new troops pending the outcome of the appeal.
In the motion, administration lawyers argued that the military will be "seriously and irreparably harmed if forced" to implement the policy by Jan. 1, saying that people involved in recruiting haven't had enough time to be trained in the "complex and multidisciplinary nature" of transgender medical issues.
But lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case argued the Pentagon has had plenty of time to prepare. They submitted a sworn statement from Obama administration Navy Secretary Ray Mabus saying the work on lifting the accession ban was largely done by the time he left office last January.
Kollar-Kotelly sided with the plaintiffs, saying the Pentagon has had more than a year and a half to prepare since the Obama administration first announced the enlistment ban would be lifted.
Kollar-Kotelly also said the administration's request for an emergency stay was belied by the fact that it waited six weeks to file the motion after she issued her injunction.
"If complying with the military's previously established January 1, 2018 deadline to begin accession was as unmanageable as defendants now suggest, one would have expected defendants to act with more alacrity," she wrote.
The NCLR and GLAD applauded the ruling Monday.
"It's time to stop stalling and move forward," Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD's Transgender Rights Project, said in a statement.
"The military has had nearly a year and a half to be ready to implement an enlistment policy its own leaders created and adopted. High ranking military leaders who oversaw training when the military made the first changes to transgender service policies have said the military is ready to accept transgender enlistees. This administration needs to stop creating fake problems and get on with it."
"As of right now, they are simply complying with a court order," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Monday. "The Department of Justice is currently reviewing the legal options to ensure the president's order can be implemented."
--Jordan Fabian contributed to this report, which was updated at 2:30 p.m.