Trump administration ends fight to stop military from accepting openly transgender troops on Jan. 1

"A few strokes of the legal quill may easily alter the law, but the stigma of being seen as less-than is not so easily erased."

Donald Trump on Friday
Trump speaks as he meets with members of the U.S. Coast Guard, who he invited to play golf, at one of his golf courses, on Friday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

On Friday afternoon, the Trump administration confirmed that it would not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a ruling that has blocked the ban on transgender troops in the military. This means that on January 1, openly transgender people will be allowed to join the U.S. military.

“The Department of Defense has announced that it will be releasing an independent study of these issues in the coming weeks. So rather than litigate this interim appeal before that occurs, the administration has decided to wait for DOD’s study and will continue to defend the President’s and Secretary of Defense’s lawful authority in district court in the meantime,” a Justice Department official told BuzzFeed News in a statement.

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Trump sparked immense backlash back in July, when he tweeted that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military. The exact number of transgender people in the military is unknown, though some have estimated the number to be above 6,000. Last year, the Obama administration announced that as of July 1, 2017, transgender people no longer needed to hide in the shadows in the military, that they would be able to be open about their gender identity and still able to serve. Before Trump’s controversial tweets this summer, Defense Secretary James Mattis had already pushed the deadline back to January 1, 2018, claiming more study was needed.

In August, Trump followed up on his tweets by signing an official directive that banned transgender people from enlisting in the U.S. military and banned the Department of Defense from providing military treatment to transgender people currently serving.

But that directive has seen pushback from the courts ever since.

Last week, two more federal courts  rejected the ban and ordered the military to begin accepting openly transgender troops at the start of 2018 — the fifth and sixth federal courts to do so.

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“Plaintiffs allege, and the Court agrees, the ban sends a damaging public message that transgender people are not fit to serve in the military,” U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal said in his ruling. “There is nothing any court can do to remedy a government-sent message that some citizens are not worthy of the military uniform simply because of their gender. A few strokes of the legal quill may easily alter the law, but the stigma of being seen as less-than is not so easily erased.”

The Trump administration was considering asking the Supreme Court to intervene, but has decided not to. So the Obama-era directive lives on.

Upon learning of this news, the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, Orrin Hatch of Utah, tweeted in support of the result: