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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 24, 2019   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: Transgender military ban goes into effect

The Supreme Court revived United States President Donald Trump’s administration’s military policy prohibiting most transgender people from serving in the military Jan. 22.

In an unsigned order, the justices allowed for the ban to temporarily go into effect as court cases challenging the ban move forward. The vote was five to four, the five conservative justices in favor and the four progressive in dissent. The administration also asked that the court hear immediate appeals from trial court rulings blocking the policy, however, its request was denied.

The same day, the court also sought to postpone making decisions on issues including the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), LGBTQ employment rights and abortion restrictions. Policies regarding these issues will likely stay in place for the next several months, with the ruling on the transgender military ban being the exception after significantly moving forward Jan. 22.

The ban on transgender people serving in the military was announced July 26 by Trump via Twitter. He claimed the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” transgender people caused were issues the American forces could not afford to handle. The announcement was met with significant backlash from transgender and civil rights advocacy groups, some of which threatened to challenge the ban in court.

The policy was later refined by Jim Mattis, the defense secretary at the time. The policy generally prohibits people who identify as a gender different than the one they were assigned at birth from serving in the military. Exceptions from the policy are currently made for the several hundred people fitting this description already serving in the military and those willing to serve “as their biological sex.” The ban reversed former President Barack Obama’s policy of allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military and receive funding for sex-reassignment surgery, which was announced in June 2016.

After reviewing Mattis’ plan in court, the court ruled that the military ban was not a blanket ban on transgender people because not all transgender people seek to medically transition to their preferred gender or experience gender dysphoria. In its current state, the policy is only preventing people who want to undergo sex-reassignment surgery.

Nevertheless, the ban on transgender people serving in the military has caused outrage throughout the U.S. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the hashtag #TransMilitaryBan quickly began trending on Twitter.

Congressman Sean Maloney, a representative for New York’s 18th congressional district, spoke out against the ban via Twitter and said transgender people have made significant contributions to the military.

“If you doubt ability of [transgender] troops to complete their mission, you should do your homework,” Maloney said. “Trans Americans have served in the most elite units, graduated from premier military academies — preventing them from serving doesn’t make us safer, it’s discriminatory.”

Organizations such as Planned Parenthood Action, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action and the American Civil Liberties Union also spoke out against the ban in support of transgender Americans.

“Trans people belong in America,” the ACLU said in a statement made via Twitter. “That includes in the military, our schools and in public.”

Meredith Burke can be reached at mburke@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @meredithsburke