Trump’s transgender military memorandum blocked by federal judge

By Nina Kegelman || Contributing Writer

In August President Trump issued a memorandum banning transgender people from military service. This proposal, which was announced via Twitter, would prohibit the admission of transgender individuals into the military and require the discharge of those transgender members currently serving by March 2018.

On Monday, October 30, federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly blocked the provisions of this memorandum, preemptively deeming it unconstitutional. Corresponding with plaintiffs and lawyers opposing this policy, Kollar-Kotelly denounced the memorandum and concluded that transgender service members would be harmed by discharge or rejection. 

Kollar-Kotelly also criticized Trump’s informal announcement of the memorandum, which came through Twitter on July 26, noting its arrival as being under “unusual circumstances.” In a string of tweets over the summer, Trump claimed transgender troops have caused “tremendous medical costs and disruption” to the military.

The Trump administration disregards Kollar-Kotelly’s 76-page ruling as premature, stating that the Pentagon is still in the process of determining how the memorandum would be implemented. To rule on the policy now would be unfair. They also argue that the federal courts are not capable of judging military decisions in such a way.

Kollar-Kotelly holds her position, though, asserting that the Trump administration’s reasoning is baseless. She maintains that the President’s reasoning behind the memorandum is contradicted by research done by the military itself. There is no apparent support for the claim that the presence of transgender servicemembers has a negative effect on the military. In fact, research has found that the integration of transgender troops would actually “have minimal impact on readiness and health care costs” and would cause “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam has expressed the administration’s disagreement with the ruling, saying they are still evaluating the requirements and that no apparent complaints from plaintiffs have been made.

According to Kollar-Kotelly, this decision would be found unconstitutional for violating the Fifth Amendment rights of transgender individuals. Several civil rights groups have sued the administration on behalf of transgender servicemembers, contending that the ban would not allow them their right to due process and equal protection under the law.

This ruling is significant in that it affirms the Constitutional protection from discriminatory government policies towards transgender individuals.

While it has frustrated social conservatives, who have been pushing for similar restrictive policies towards the transgender community in recent years, Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling is taken as a temporary victory for the protection of the transgender community’s equal rights.

However, the security of transgender persons’ right to serve will continue to be under question in the coming months.

First-year Nina Kegelman is a contributing writer. Her email is nkegelma@fandm.edu.

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