On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled the Trump Administration can officially enforce its ban on transgender people serving in the military while lower court challenges to the policy continue.
While the court declined to consider the constitutionality of the ban, it will allow the administration to ban transgender service members during the ongoing appeals process. According to SCOTUS Blog’s Amy Howe, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan voted against the stay of lower court injunctions barring the ban from being implemented.
As BuzzFeed News’ Chris Geidner reported, this means the ban will be allowed to take effect for the first time (emphasis added):
Until recently, all courts to consider the question had ruled against the actions of President Donald Trump and, later, former defense secretary James Mattis to first outright ban and then severely limit transgender military service. On Jan. 3, however, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit reversed a district court’s injunction against the Mattis policy.
That ruling — while a setback for advocates of transgender military service — had no immediate effect due to the multiple other injunctions against the policy.
Tuesday’s order, however, put stays in place halting enforcement of the injunctions — and allowing enforcement of the ban for the first time since Trump tweeted his plans in the summer of 2017. Transgender people had been allowed to serve since an Obama administration decision in 2016, and transgender people have been allowed to join the military since the beginning of 2018.
President Donald Trump’s fight to keep trans people out of the military began in July 2017, with a tweetstorm in which the president declared a ban on “transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” Trump tweeted at the time.
At the time, thousands of trans people were already serving in the military—by 2016, there were approximately 8,980 service members who identified as transgender, according to CNN. Meanwhile, studies showed the “cost” of allowing trans service members is very low.
A month before Trump announced the trans military ban, Education Secretary Betsy Devos gutted protections allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms in line with their gender identity. Last year, the administration also reversed protections for transgender inmates to be given housing according to their gender identity. A win for Trump’s ban on transgender troops could be temporary bearing out lower court rulings, but it’s yet another blow to a community already under siege.