On Monday, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly from the U.S. District Court D.C Circuit declared the Trump administration’s discriminatory ban on trans military service unconstitutional.
In her ruling, Judge Kollar-Kotelly found the policy to be a direct obstruction of 5th Amendment rights, halted the immediate discharge of active trans service members and tentatively eliminated any sanctions on future enlistment by trans folks. Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling did not touch on the portion of the policy decisively barring the use of military funds for transition-related health care coverage, which the judge cited as out of her jurisdiction.
Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling is borne of a joint lawsuit filed by the GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights on the behalf of five anonymous active service members. They argued that the ban “disfavors a class of historically persecuted and politically powerless individuals” and denied trans community due process and equal protection under the law. Judge Kollar-Kotelly agreed, divulging her disapproval for the hasty implementation of the policy and the seeming flagrant lack of concerted deliberation on the matter.
The ban was initially announced by Trump in a tweet on July 26 and followed by a formal memorandum produced on August 25. The administration claimed that trans service members put a substantial financial burden on the military, using a balanced budget as a scapegoat for the discriminatory policy, but a study conducted in 2016 found that funding for transition-related health care amounted to a marginal increase in the defense budget and that providing accommodations for trans individuals “had little to no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness” for military bodies.
In a statement released in the wake of the judicial proceedings, the Human Rights Campaign called the ruling “an important step in the ongoing efforts to protect transgender service members.” ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Josh Bock called the impulsive ban “blatantly unconstitutional.” Of the injunction, he said: “This is the first decision striking down President Trump’s ban, but it won’t be the last.” The ACLU is in the process of filing a separate suit in Maryland on behalf of several named service members.
The federal government is currently in the process of reviewing the injunction. In the interim, Judge Kollar-Kotelly asserted that the military’s protocol shall “revert to the status quo” as defined by former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter during the Obama administration—wherein trans members of the military can serve openly and future admittance is unrestricted.
Army Chief of Staff General Mark A. Milley cited the constitutional decree that all Americans are “free and equal” when the Pentagon lifted restrictions on trans personnel in 2016. “If we in uniform are willing to die for that principle,” reasoned Gen. Milley, “then we in uniform should be willing to live by that principle.”
Sarah Alexander is a recent graduate of Cal State Northridge. In addition to being a writer, she is a visual and performing artist, and attempts to use film, music and online platforms to spark conversation about social activism. She is an anomalous LA native, which affects her personality in a plethora of unique ways.