The U.S. Supreme Court declared on Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s proposed ban on transgender service members shall go into effect, at least for the time being. The decision is not an official ruling in favor of the ban’s legality, but it supports the president’s request to enforce the highly-contested law while it is being challenged in lower courts. The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision — split along party lines — overrides injunctions set in place by several federal judges who ruled that the ban is unconstitutional.
Some transgender service members have filed lawsuits challenging the ban, which reverses protections put in place by the Obama administration allowing them to serve openly and receive coverage for gender-confirmation surgery and other medical expenses. Regardless of whether the lower courts rule in favor of these service members, experts say Tuesday’s announcement is a sign the conservative-majority Supreme Court may uphold the ban should the case be brought before them.
Trump’s sudden decision to restrict transgender Americans from serving in the armed forces, which he announced via Twitter in 2017, has been one of his most controversial policy changes. Trump has stated that the former administration’s decision to allow transgender troops to serve openly was irresponsible and that further study is required to prove these individuals do not interfere with military effectiveness. The president also claims that medical care for transgender service members would be exorbitant.
Top military advisers have argued against the ban on evidence that transgender status does nothing to impair a person’s ability to effectively serve their country. LGBTQ and human rights activists maintain that the president’s decision is blatant discrimination and a violation of equal rights law.
Several federal judges ruled in favor of civil rights groups who challenged the ban in 2017, ruling that the military had to begin accepting transgender recruits by Jan. 1, 2018. Then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis later proposed a revised version of the ban which made exceptions for current transgender troops and new recruits who had not previously undergone gender-confirmation surgery and were not in the process of transitioning genders. In his official proposal, Mattis argued that sacrificing some personal liberties is a necessity for members of the armed forces.