Appeals court clears path for Pentagon to enforce transgender ban April 12

A federal appeals court finalized Tuesday its ruling to lift an injunction against President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE’s transgender military ban, allowing the policy to take effect April 12 as planned.

The Pentagon announced this month it will enforce a policy banning most transgender people from serving in the military starting April 12.

The announcement came after courts ruled to lift all four injunctions that had been placed on the ban. But the Trump administration and the litigants continued to fight over whether one of the injunctions remained in effect.

Lawyers for transgender troops suing the administration argued the injunction was still in force because the D.C. Circuit’s January ruling lifting it allowed for a period of time for the plaintiffs to decide whether they want a rehearing in front of the court’s full bench. The deadline to decide is March 29.

Last week, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the judge who originally placed the injunction, sided with the plaintiffs and said the hold on the policy remained in effect until after the deadline.

But on Tuesday, a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit granted the Trump administration’s motion to issue a mandate finalizing its earlier ruling to lift the injunction.

GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders and National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), co-counsels in the lawsuit at issue, have not yet decided whether to petition for a rehearing in front of the D.C. Circuit’s full bench, but doing so would have no bearing on the Pentagon's ability to implement the ban April 12 as planned.

Though all of the injunctions have now officially been lifted, courts have not ruled on the underlying merits of the four lawsuits against the ban, and advocates are vowing to press on in their cases.

“The government’s plan is already wreaking havoc in the lives of dedicated transgender troops who must now face the grim choice of suppressing their identity or leaving military service, to the detriment of their fellow service members and national security,” NCLR legal director Shannon Minter said in a statement. “Today’s ruling only drives home the urgency of continuing to fight this destructive policy, which we will continue to do in the district court.”

The House is also scheduled to vote this week on a resolution rejecting the policy.