The Trump administration said Friday it will soon implement a ban on most transgender people in the military, despite lawyers for transgender challengers insisting a federal court injunction still blocks the policy.
In a notice filed in the District Court for Washington, DC, the Justice Department said “there is no longer any impediment to the military’s implementation” of the ban, adding that the Pentagon plans to release a memorandum “formally implementing the new policy in the near future.”
But Jennifer Levi, a lawyer for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, a group representing the challengers, was adamant the ban remains blocked by a previous court order.
“The government is wrong,” she told BuzzFeed News.
In June 2016, the Obama administration lifted a decadeslong ban on transgender service members after finding they didn’t harm the military.
Trump reversed that decision in 2017, saying that transgender people would render the military “burdened with medical costs and disruption.” Trump formalized the policy in a memorandum that August — but four courts soon issued preliminary injunctions putting the ban on hold as legal challenges moved forward. All four of the challenges will proceed even if Trump implements the ban.
The policy evolved in February 2018, when former defense secretary James Mattis recommended banning most transgender personnel but allowing those who’d already joined and transitioned to remain in the ranks. Trump then rescinded his own 2017 order while officials sought to implement Mattis’s recommendations.
The Justice Department filing on Friday said that the new policy memorandum “will not take effect until 30 days after its release.”
“To be told that I’m now a burden, after nearly 19 years of service, it’s really hard to understand,” Chief Warrant Officer Lindsey Muller, an active-duty Army attack helicopter pilot who also served during the Iraq War, told BuzzFeed News in January.
Describing phone calls from other transgender soldiers and applicants, Muller said, “They are terrified.”