A federal judge in Washington on Monday blocked President Donald Trump from banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, handing a victory to transgender service members who accused the president of violating their constitutional rights.
The transgender service members sued in August to try to block the ban, which had not yet gone into effect, and U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted them an injunction halting enforcement of it until their case is resolved.
The service members asserted that Trump’s policy violated their rights to due process and equal protection under the law under the U.S. Constitution. Kollar-Kotelly said the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their claim that the ban was unconstitutional because the administration’s reasons for it “do not appear to be supported by any facts.”
After his policy announcement on Twitter, Trump signed a memorandum in August that directed the military not to accept transgender people as recruits and halted the use of government funds for sex-reassignment surgeries for active-duty personnel unless the process was already underway.
The memo called on Defense Secretary James Mattis to submit a plan to Trump by Feb. 21 on how to implement the changes, and the Pentagon has created a panel of senior officials for that purpose. In the meantime, the current policy of allowing transgender people to serve remains in force.
Mattis in June already had delayed allowing transgender recruits to join the U.S. armed forces on July 1 as previously scheduled. The judge tossed out the suit’s challenge to the sex-reassignment surgery directive, saying none of the plaintiffs had shown they would be impacted by that prohibition.
The judge’s action marked the latest legal setback suffered by Trump on policies he has pursued as president. Courts also have blocked Trump’s latest version of a travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries, and dealt him setbacks on policies on so-called sanctuary cities and environmental rules.
The service members who sued Trump, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and military leaders in August had been serving openly as transgender people in the U.S. Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. They said Trump’s ban discriminated against them based on their sex and transgender status. Other suits also have been filed against Trump’s ban.