It is unclear whether the Defense Department's transgender ban will actually take effect on April 12 as planned.
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the Pentagon jumped the gun last week when it announced it will ban people with a medical diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” starting next month. The reason: plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit challenging the transgender ban have until March 29 to request a rehearing.
Until then, an injunction preventing the Pentagon from implementing the transgender ban remains in place, ruled Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“The ruling means that the Trump administration cannot enforce a ban on military service by transgender people,” said Shannon Minter, an attorney who represents transgender people now serving in the military and others who want to join. “That includes all of our plaintiffs in this case, and all other transgender service members and transgender people who are seeking to enlist in the military.”
Minter, who is legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said his clients are considering asking for a rehearing and a new injunction.
“As long as that prohibition against enforcing a ban remains in place, transgender service members must be treated the same as other service members, which means that they cannot be discharged for coming out and seeking to transition,” he told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.
“Those who have already come out and begun or completed gender transition cannot be discharged or treated unequally,” he continued. “And transgender individuals who are seeking to enlist must be given an equal opportunity to do so, provided they can meet the standards applied to other applicants.”
Defense Department officials had no comment on Wednesday.
The Justice Department, which represents the government in the case, asked D.C. District Court on Wednesday to lift the injunction. Justice Department officials argued that the government had assumed the injunction against the transgender ban had ended when the D.C. District Court ruled in the government's favor on Jan. 4.
They also argued that a Jan. 22 Supreme Court decision that lifted injunctions in other legal challenges to the transgender ban applies to this lawsuit as well.
Blake Dremann is president of SPART*A, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, and transgender troops. His group is advising members to plan for the transgender ban to go into effect on April 12.
“The confusion about this policy will continue to plague our members and the medical system,” Dremann told Task & Purpose. “I ask that transgender service members not to take any chances and that if they require transition that they seek medical attention at the earliest moment possible. SPARTA will continue to provide support and guidance to transgender service members as we continue to work to change the policy back to allowing open service.”