US military soldiers march during the Veterans Day Parade in New York on Nov. 11, 2014.
Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty

Supreme Court allows Trump to enforce ban on transgender military service

In July 2017, Donald Trump announced a new policy via Twitter: the president would no longer allow transgender Americans to serve in the military. He hadn’t given anyone at the Pentagon a heads-up about his new discriminatory policy – officials throughout the executive branch were blindsided – and no one at the White House could explain the necessity of the change.

Trump eventually defended the move by saying, “I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it.” I still have no idea what that meant.

Not surprisingly, there were plenty of lawsuits challenging the president’s policy, and Trump’s position hasn’t fared well. As regular readers may recall, the day after Thanksgiving, when much of the country’s attention was focused elsewhere, the administration turned to the Supreme Court for a rescue.

Today, the administration got at least some of what it wanted.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday revived the Trump administration’s policy of barring most transgender people from serving in the military. In a brief, unsigned order, the justices lifted nationwide injunctions that had blocked the policy.

The vote was 5 to 4. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.

It’s important to clarify that the justices did not rule on the legality of Trump’s policy itself. Rather, this specific dispute was over whether the administration could implement its discriminatory policy while lower courts evaluated legal challenges to it.

There were injunctions in place, blocking the Trump administration’s policy and allowing transgender military service to continue. Today, the Supreme Court lifted the injunctions, clearing the way for officials to begin blocking transgender Americans from wearing the uniform.

As for the legality of the president’s policy, the New York Timesreport on this morning’s developments added, “The administration had also asked the justices to immediately hear appeals, an unusual request when an appeals court has not yet ruled. The court turned down those requests.”

A report commissioned by the Pentagon two years ago found that allowing transgender Americans to serve would have little to no impact on military cohesion or readiness. Trump has never fully explained why he considers renewed discrimination necessary.