Ban on Transgender Military Service Unenforceable, Rules DC Judge

Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom

On October 30th, 2017, US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (US District Court of the District of Columbia) blocked in part and allowed in part President Donald Trump’s order banning transgender individuals from the military. The plaintiffs (Jane Doe et al) sought an enjoinment of a Memorandum released August 25th, 2017, by Trump, ordering a ban on transgender military service. The changes were scheduled to come into effect January, 2018.

In her judgment on Doe v. Trump (17-cv-01597, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington)), Judge Kollar-Kotelly restricted the enforcement of s.1(b) s.2(a) of Trump’s Memorandum, which would restrict all transgender individuals from military service when it came into effect. However, she allowed s.2(b) which would halt the use of Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) resources necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign their sex [para 2, Doe v Trump].

The August 25th Memorandum had intended to reverse the changes to policies made in June 30th 2016 by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Prior to these changes, transgender individuals were disqualified as transgenderism was classified by the Department of Defense as a disqualifying physical condition under s.14 and s.15 of Enclosure 4 of Medical Standards. This restriction was found to be counter to military interests by a Palm Center report from March 2014, as it barred applicants for arbitrary reasons, and who were otherwise capable of fulfilling their duties.

The August 25th Memo was worded in an attempt to avoid discrimination by citing the burdensome cost of medical resources to accommodate transgender individuals who are in transition. This clause (s.2(b)) has not been blocked. When it comes into effect, s.2(b) will halt medical coverage for ongoing hormonal drug treatment and/or previously scheduled transitional surgery that was covered by the DoD or DHS.

Even if this decision is not appealed, and transgender individuals are allowed to serve in the military, the refusal of coverage for services pertaining to their medical requirements will still amount to discrimination against them as a group. For the time being, there is no recognized standing for objecting to this decision.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.

About the Author

Nathan Prendergast
Nathan is a second year in the JD program at the University of Windsor Faculty of Law.