D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Trump Administration Request to Delay January 1 Transgender Enlistment Date
(Washington, D.C., December 22, 2017)—The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today rejected a Trump Administration request to stay District Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s order that the military allow qualified transgender people to enlist beginning January 1. On December 11, District Judge Kollar-Kotelly denied the same request. Both the appeals court and Judge Kollar-Kotelly rejected the Administration’s argument that the military would not be prepared to accept transgender recruits by January 1—a claim undercut by a Department of Defense memorandum issued December 8 which lays out guidance for processing transgender enlistees.
The order issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia included this language: “Finally, in the balancing of equities, it must be remembered that all Plaintiffs seek during this litigation is to serve their Nation with honor and dignity, volunteering to face extreme hardships, to endure lengthy deployments and separation from family and friends, and to willingly make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives if necessary to protect the Nation, the people of the United States, and the Constitution against all who would attack them.”
“The necessary preparations to allow qualified transgender Americans to enlist have been underway for some time. Former and current military officials have confirmed that, and DOD guidance issued December 8 makes it crystal clear,”said Jennifer Levi, GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director. “There is no justification for any more delay. The military is ready, the country is ready, and the courts have weighed in. Qualified transgender people are ready to sign up and risk their lives in defense of the nation. Our country needs them. It’s time to let them serve.”
“We are grateful to the D.C. Court of Appeals for recognizing that our plaintiffs simply want to serve their country, and that there is no basis whatsoever for delaying the enlistment of qualified transgender applicants,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Legal Director Shannon Minter. “Since President Trump’s destructive order to ban transgender people from military service, military leaders and experts are speaking out to support transgender troops. Experience has shown that allowing qualified transgender candidates to serve strengthens our military and our country. We cannot allow this administration to demean dedicated service members and weaken our military based on false stereotypes and irrational bias.”
Nearly 50 retired military and national security officials submitted an amicus briefto the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals noting that the military began taking the necessary steps to prepare for enlistment by transgender individuals nearly a year and a half ago, and refuting the need for further delay. On December 18, the Palm Center released a report further repudiating Trump administration assertions that the military would not be ready to process transgender enlistees by January 1, including confirmation from former military Surgeons General that training military medical examiners and recruiters to process transgender candidates would be neither complicated nor time-consuming, and was nearly completed a year ago.
In Doe v. Trump, NCLR and GLAD argue that Trump’s ban, first announced in a series of tweets, is unfounded and discriminatory because qualified and able transgender Americans who wish to enlist are barred from doing so for no military-related reason. The ban also demeans and stigmatizes qualified, capable transgender troops who are facing discharge along with the accompanying loss of their professions, livelihoods, health care, and the post-military retirement they have worked hard to earn.
NCLR and GLAD have been at the center of the legal fight challenging President Trump’s military ban since filing Doe v. Trump, the first of four cases filed against the ban, on August 9. The Trump administration lost the first round and appealed Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s October 30 nationwide preliminary injunction to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, one court level below the United States Supreme Court. The preliminary injunction temporarily halts Trump’s ban and requires equal treatment of transgender troops and enlistees while the legal challenge makes its way through the courts.