The Trump administration's ban on transgenders serving in the U.S. military got a major boost on Friday when a federal appeals court ruled that the ban should not have been blocked by a lower court.
According to USA Today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit "ruled that the partial ban announced by the Pentagon, but never implemented, should not have been blocked by a district court while it was being challenged."
The three-judge panel argued that considerable deference is owed to the executive branch on military policy, noting that the ban on transgenders was not a "blanket ban" and that it had been fine-tuned by Pentagon officials.
"The government took substantial steps to cure the procedural deficiencies the court identified in the enjoined 2017 presidential memorandum," the panel said, adding that the partial ban "plausibly relies upon the 'considered professional judgment' of 'appropriate military officials,' and appears to permit some transgender individuals to serve in the military."
The finalized version of the ban on transgenders disqualifies from service "transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria," and specifically those who “may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery,” except in “certain limited circumstances." The ban was also crafted after "extensive study by senior uniformed and civilian leaders, including combat veterans."
In July 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Trump administration's appeal of an injunction against its ban on transgender individuals in the military imposed by a lower court. The administration had requested the Ninth Circuit review — and potentially overturn — the injunction, but its request was denied. U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman levied the injunction, arguing at the time that "transgender people have long been subjected to systemic oppression and forced to live in silence, they are a protected class. Therefore, any attempt to exclude them from military service will be looked at with the highest level of care."
Prior to his resignation, Defense Secretary James Mattis said he is "prepared to defend" the ban, concluding that troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria carry "impacts of healthcare costs, readiness, and unit cohesion,” and as such present “considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality." However, Pentagon leaders also reassured transgenders currently serving in the military that they would not be discharged and their medical care would not be taken away. Estimates say that as many as several thousand transgenders are currently serving in the U.S. military.
LGBT rights groups blasted Friday's ruling as an affront to transgender military members. "Today’s ruling is a devastating slap in the face to transgender service members who have proved their fitness to serve and their dedication to this country,” said Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
At the time of the ban's announcement, a viral video featured an Army veteran explaining why the Trump administration made the correct decision, asserting that military service is no place for someone confused about their own biological identity.
"It’s your choice to do with your body what you wish, but the military is not there to serve as a social experiment, nor pay for transgender transitioning cost related to hormone replacement therapy, or sex change operations," said the veteran. "The military serves as a fighting force that guards this nation and does not need to be burdened with the extreme changes it would be required to undergo to accommodate such a small demographic."