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Judge Blocks Trump's Transgender Military Ban

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Federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly blocked several provisions of President Donald Trump's transgender military ban in a case filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.

On Oct. 30, Kollar-Kotelly wrote a 76-page memo detailing her reasoning for the ruling, including that the ban violates the plaintiff's right to due process under the Fifth Amendment, The Hill reports.

"The court finds that a number of factors, including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement of them, the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself -- strongly suggest that Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious," the judge wrote.

The "unusual circumstances" the judge refers to is a series of tweets from the president on July 26 announcing a new policy regarding transgender people serving in the military, with seemingly little warning.

"After Consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," Trump tweeted, according to CNN. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you."

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The ban reversed a June 2016 lift of the longtime exclusion of transgenders from enlisting in the military.

Trump signed a presidential memo on Aug. 25 giving the military until March 23, 2018, to discharge transgender service members, CNN reports.

Trump's memo gave U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis six months to develop a plan for what to do with the transgender troops who currently serve in the military, according to The Hill. 

Mattis had already stalled the recruitment of new transgender military members at the time, USA Today reports.

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The Pentagon commissioned a study by the RAND Corp. to determine the costs and effects of allowing transgender individuals to serve. The study estimated that out of the 1.3 million people on active duty, between 1,320 and 6,630 were transgender. Cost of hormone treatment was deemed negligible and was found to have no effect on military readiness.

In August, GLAD and NCLR filed a lawsuit on behalf of six serving military members and two recruits, The Hill reports. The government asked the case to be dismissed while the six-month review was ongoing, but Kollar-Kotelly denied the dismissal on the basis that the decision to ban the troops had already been made.

"[The ban and dismissal] must be executed by a date certain, and there is no reason to believe that they will not be executed," the judge said. "Plaintiffs have established that they will be injured by these directives, due both to the inherent inequality they impose, and the risk of discharge and denial of accession that they engender."

The plaintiffs did not say they would be harmed by the ban on funding for gender reassignment surgery, which is the only provision of the ban the judge did not block.

Queer rights activists have celebrated the move. It has also been deemed politically significant.

"Although this ruling is very preliminary, it's significant in at least two respects," said CNN legal analyst Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. "First, it is based on the judge's conclusion that the Constitution in some way limits the government's ability to discriminate against transgendered individuals. Second, it once again recognizes that the president's words (and tweets) have consequences, especially when those words are turned into official policy."

Sources: CNN (2), The Hill, USA Today / Featured Image: Ted Eytan/Flickr / Embedded Images: Michael Tolzmann/U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons, Ted Eytan/Flickr

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