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Court rules against Trump administration on transgender military ban

Court rules against Trump administration on transgender military ban
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An appeals court on Wednesday ruled against the Trump administration and upheld a court order stalling a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a block on the implementation of the ban, which was first announced by President Trump last year.

The court's move enables transgender people to continue enlisting in the military until the opposing parties go to trial, expected in April 2019.

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The administration had filed a motion to stay the preliminary injunction granted by a lower court in December 2017.

The 9th Circuit ruling holds that the stay requested by the administration “would upend, rather than preserve, the status quo,” which currently allows transgender people to serve.

Trump abruptly announced on Twitter in June 2017 that he would ban transgender individuals from serving “in any capacity” in the U.S. military.

The move sought to reverse the Obama administration’s decision to begin allowing transgender troops to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces, but that decision was still under final review at the time Trump announced the ban.

Multiple groups filed lawsuits against the ban, including the group involved in Wednesday’s case. The lawsuit was brought by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN in Seattle, and joined by the state of Washington on behalf of six troops that are currently serving, three people seeking to enlist and three LGBT rights groups – the Human Rights Campaign, the Gender Justice League and the American Military Partner Association.

The ruling stems from Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, who first granted a preliminary injunction in December 2017 to block the ban and “preserve the status quo.”

The administration pushed back and moved to dissolve the injunction in April, pointing to a March memorandum laying out its revised plans to move forward with the policy, which bans most transgender people from serving in the military “except under certain limited circumstances.”

The memo gave Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who oversees the Coast Guard, “authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals.”

But Pechman ruled the lawsuit would go to trial and the injunction would stay in place as the memo did not represent a new policy, but rather an implementation of the ban Trump first announced on Twitter.

The Trump administration then appealed the April ruling, arguing that allowing the ban to move forward was necessary to “prevent irreparable harm to military interests.”

Pechman in June once again blocked the ban, and wrote that the Trump administration made no arguments she had not already rejected and noted that there would be no demonstrable harm in keeping the injunction in place.

The military transgender ban has been controversial since Trump announced it last year, with military leaders shying away from endorsing it.

The top officers of the Navy and Marine Corps said in April that they have no evidence that unit morale and cohesion has been negatively affected by the open service of transgender individuals.

“The only issues I’ve heard of is in some cases, because of the medical requirements of some of these individuals, that there is a burden on the commands to handle all the medical stuff,” Marines Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“But discipline, cohesion of the force, no.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testified before the same Senate panel that there have been “precisely zero” reports of problems with unit cohesion, discipline and morale, in regards to allowing transgender troops in the ranks.

The ban has also received pushback from retired military officers and national security officials, 33 of whom wrote a letter earlier this month urging the 9th Circuit to uphold the court order stalling the ban.

“Excluding transgender individuals from patriotic service that they are trained and qualified to give based on group characteristics, rather than individual fitness to serve, undermines rather than promotes the national security interests of the United States,” they wrote.