President Trump’s effort to ban transgender people from joining the military suffered yet another setback Thursday — its first at the appellate level. If such defeats continue, transgender people will be allowed to start enlisting on January 1, which is less than two weeks away.
The Trump administration is defending its ban on transgender military service in three different cases, one in Washington, D.C., one in Maryland, and one in Washington state. Thursday’s order came from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Maryland case, in which the lower court judge had ruled against the ban. Only one paragraph long, the order rejects the administration’s request for an administrative stay, meaning it has to maintain the schedule of allowing enlistment to begin next month.
The administration has appealed the case in the D.C. circuit and is expected to do the same in the Ninth Circuit, which oversees Washington state. With such a tight deadline, it’s possible that the Supreme Court could soon be asked to weigh in as well. This would seemingly be even more likely if one of the other two circuit courts does issue a stay, creating a split between the circuits. The Supreme Court has not yet issued an opinion in a major transgender rights case, but there are indications that even a liberal justice like Stephen Breyer might have reservations about such issues.
Though judges have ruled against the service ban in all three cases and the Pentagon is preparing for the eventuality of transgender people enlisting on January 1, there is no guarantee that they will be able to do so until that time.