Trump’s ban on transgender military service just took another blow

The arbitrary ban "cannot possibly constitute a legitimate governmental interest", the judge wrote.

CREDIT: Rainmaker Photo/MediaPunch/IPX
CREDIT: Rainmaker Photo/MediaPunch/IPX

A second federal judge has ruled against President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, issuing a preliminary injunction prohibiting it from taking effect. Unlike the first such injunction, issued last month, this order also ensures transition-related medical procedures remain covered.

Senior United States District Judge Marvin Garbis, a George H.W. Bush appointee, ruled Tuesday that Trump’s ban, first tweeted out in July, could not be enforced:

President Trump’s tweets did not emerge from a policy review, nor did the Presidential Memorandum identify any policymaking process or evidence demonstrating that the revocation of transgender rights was necessary for any legitimate national interest. Based on the circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement and the departure from normal procedure, the Court agrees with the D.C. Court that there is sufficient support for Plaintiffs’ claims that “the decision to exclude transgender individuals was not driven by genuine concerns regarding military efficacy.”

Garbis observed that transgender people “are already suffering harmful consequences such as the cancellation and postponements of surgeries, the stigma of being set apart as inherently unfit, facing the prospect of discharge and inability to commission as an officer, the inability to move forward with long-term medical plans, and the threat to their prospects of obtaining long-term assignments.”

In this case (and unlike the separate case that resulted in an injunction last month), two of the plaintiffs have medical plans that called for transition-related surgeries to be scheduled after next March’s deadline for implementing the ban and ceasing all funding for such procedures. This was sufficient rationale for Garbis to conclude that the directive banning such procedures be enjoined along with the accession and retention directives.

The Trump administration had tried to argue that the order merely called for a study and that it was not clear that the implementation would be final. Garbis was not convinced.

“The Court cannot interpret the plain text of the President’s Memorandum as being a request for a study to determine whether or not the directives should be implemented,” he wrote. “Rather, it orders the directives to be implemented by specified dates.”

Though Garbis recognized that heightened scrutiny should be applied when transgender people are targeted for discrimination, he also ruled that the ban would not satisfy even a “rational basis” review, the court’s lowest level of scrutiny.

“The lack of any justification for the abrupt policy change, combined with the discriminatory impact to a group of our military service members who have served our country capably and honorably, cannot possibly constitute a legitimate governmental interest,” he wrote.

Like last month’s decision, this preliminary injunction does not constitute a final decision in the case. Still, it provides peace of mind to transgender servicemembers, who will not have to worry about losing their jobs as the case proceeds.