Associated Press/Evan Vucci
- A federal court ruled on Thursday that the Trump administration’s efforts to bar transgender people from serving in the US military could move forward, giving the administration another opportunity to implement the policy.
- The decision comes after the Supreme Court ruled in January that the Trump administration could begin implementing its transgender military ban. Due to an injunction in the Maryland case of Stone v. Trump, however, the ban was never put into effect.
- US District Judge George Russell III’s Thursday decision comes in Stone v. Trump, with the judge ruling that "the Court is bound by the Supreme Court’s decision."
- A Department of Defense spokesperson told INSIDER that there is no timeline yet for when the transgender military ban will actually be implemented. However, the ACLU said that an additional block on the ban still exists from a different case.
A federal court ruled on Thursday that the Trump administration’s ban on transgender service members could take effect as courts continue to mull over the issue, bringing the administration even closer to enforcing the policy.
The decision comes after the US Supreme Court lifted two injunctions on the ban in January to allow it to go into effect. However, due to an injunction in the Maryland case of Stone v. Trump, which was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of transgender plaintiffs who are either currently serving in the armed forces or plan to enlist, the ban was never fully implemented.
Thursday’s ruling gives the administration another opportunity to move forward with a policy first proposed over Tweet by the president in July 2017. The ban, which was later officially released by then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis in a 2018 memorandum, blocks anyone with a condition known as gender dysphoria from serving in the military. Mattis added that transgender individuals could remain in the military as long as they served “in their biological sex” and did not undergo gender-transition surgery.
The case in Maryland was filed days after the president ordered the Pentagon to not allow the recruitment of transgender people, The Washington Post reported.
In his order on Thursday, US District Judge George Russell III ruled that "the Court is bound by the Supreme Court’s decision," thereby revoking an earlier order he had issued to bar the administration from implementing the policy, according to The Post.
"I think it’s really disappointing that the government would take such an extreme position," Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU, told INSIDER. "That the government would say that [our plaintiffs] can’t complete the enlistment process is really unfair and causes a lot of unnecessary harm to people who have been trying to do nothing else but serve their country."
A Department of Defense spokesperson told INSIDER that there is no timeline yet for when the policy will actually be implemented.
After the Supreme Court’s January ruling, which allowed the government to enforce the ban while the policy was decided in lower courts, the Department of Justice filed a motion to stay the injunction in Stone v. Trump, asking for an "expedited ruling," according to The Daily Beast. BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner reported days later that the motion had been filed.
"Consistent with the Supreme Court’s recent action, we are pleased this procedural hurdle has been cleared," Department of Justice spokeswoman Kelly Laco told INSIDER in a statement. "The Department of Defense will be able to implement personnel policies it determined necessary to best defend our nation as litigation continues."
Judge Russell’s order was one of four issued against the transgender military ban, according to the Washington Blade. Injunctions in cases filed in California and Washington state were lifted by the Supreme Court decision.
While the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit sided with Trump on the ban, US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s injunction is still in place, the Blade explains.
Lawyers challenging the policy told The Washington Post that the injunction in the DC Circuit case remains for at least 21 days after the court issues its final signed ruling, and that the Court of Appeals has yet to act on that.
Block expressed similar sentiment, telling INSIDER that while Thursday’s ruling is a setback, there is still that additional block on the ban that exists from that DC Circuit case.
"The government has been saying in its court files that this is the last injunction preventing them from implementing the plan, but that’s not actually correct," he said. "Until the mandate from the DC Circuit is issued, it’s still in effect."
In response to the Maryland court’s ruling, the Department of Defense spokesperson told INSIDER that, "the Department is pleased with the district court’s decision to stay the final injunction against the Department’s proposed policy."
In terms of the Stone v. Trump lawsuit, Block said that the case is progressing and they are working tirelessly to prove that the ban is unconstitutional. "This is just the government trying to knock down whatever obstacles remain in the meantime," he told INSIDER.
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