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Verdicts & Settlements

Appeals Court Scores a Win for Trump’s Transgender Ban

— January 5, 2019

On Friday, an appeals court ruled in favor of President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender persons serving in the U.S. military.

The ruling lifted a lower court injunction against the policy. reports that the contested plan, crafted by recently-departed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, was ‘less restrictive’ than the all-out ban first proposed by Trump. Unlike the president’s desired policy, transgender people would be allowed to serve if they enlisted “in their biological sex.”

However, the ban won’t immediately go into effect. Other lawsuits against the ban are still pending in different jurisdictions. And Friday’s ruling won’t lift injunctions ordered by other judges.

The Washington appellate panel seeking to reverse the injunction referred to military reports that say “not all transgender persons seek to transition to their preferred gender.”

Opining that Mattis’s ban wasn’t a blanket ban, the court noted that the former defense secretary said transgender men and women have served “with distinction under the standards for their biological sex.”

“Thus, the district court erred in finding that the Mattis plan was a blanket transgender ban,” the judges said.

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis. Mattis recently resigned from the Trump administration following ‘irreconcilable’ policy differences with Trump on Syria and Afghanistan. Image via Monica King, United States Department of Defense. Public domain.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs have already begun criticizing the ruling, saying any provision forcing LGBT members of the military to serve “in the closet” isn’t inclusive.

“Part of the challenge we face here is that courts are not familiar with transgender people or transgender issues, so they are on a learning curve,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “It’s in some ways similar to the challenges we faced 20 years ago in advocating for gay people to serve. There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings that have to be addressed.”

Minter, notes, agrees that transgender people have served with distinction while enlisted with their biological sex. But he suggested it’s unlikely that transgender service-people deferred from registering with their preferred sex because they wanted to.

Moreover, Minter claims that many transgender people in the military may want to ‘transition’ but don’t do so because they’re afraid of rejection, retaliation or discrimination.

Department of Defense spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell stressed that transgender personnel are respected but that the military’s prime objective is upholding high standards.

“We treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity,” Maxwell said. “It is critical that the Department by permitted to formulate personnel policies that it determines are necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world.”

Taking transgender persons out of the armed services has long been an objective of President Donald Trump, who promised to lift Obama-era orders to let LGBT Americans enlist. Trump claimed that allowing transgender people to serve in the military could have a negative effect on troop morale and combat efficiency.

Mattis’s policy is thought to have been a comparatively thoughtful work-around, intended to allow transgender soldiers to keep their jobs and minimize legal repercussions.


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