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DC Circuit Rules in Favor of Trump Admin’s Transgender Military Ban


The Trump administration’s ban on transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military suffered a blow when a federal court issued an injunction that set it aside temporarily, but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated that injunction in a Friday decision.

The per curiam opinion (not naming any particular judge as the author), stated that the District Court erred when they issued the injunction that put the transgender ban on hold, claiming that the lower court ignored certain facts in reaching their decision.

One error the Circuit Court mentioned was the “erroneous finding” that the transgender ban at issue, known as the “Mattis Plan,” was the same as a previous policy under a 2017 Presidential Memorandum that had been enjoined. The Circuit Court said that the Mattis Plan took into account findings from “a panel of military and medical experts,” as well as “new evidence gleaned from the implementation of the policy on the service of transgender individuals” that had been put in place by Obama Defense Secretary Ash Carter. The Circuit Court noted that while the District Court may have disagreed with those findings, it was wrong to ignore them altogether.

The second reason for vacating the injunction deals with a question over the very definition of “transgender.” The Circuit Court said that the Mattis Plan was not “the equivalent of a blanket ban on transgender service,” because it only applies to those with gender dysphoria or those not willing to serve in the military as their biological sex. The Circuit Court stated that it is not accurate to say that all transgender individuals fall under these categories, because their definition of transgender is merely one who identifies as a gender different from their biological sex. They supported the decision by saying that reports that supported both the Mattis and Carter policies “repeatedly state that not all transgender persons seek to transition to their preferred gender or have gender dysphoria.”

The Circuit Court also pointed out that that Mattis plan allowed transgender individuals who would have been banned before the Carter policy went into effect would be permitted under the Mattis Plan, so the Mattis Plan cannot be a blanket ban.

The Court’s opinion concludes by saying that “the Mattis Plan plausibly relies upon the ‘considered professional judgment’ of ‘appropriate military officials,’ … and appears to permit some transgender individuals to serve in the military consistent with established military mental health, physical health, and sex-based standards.” As a result, public interest leans towards vacating the injunction, the court said.

While the Circuit Court’s decision is certainly in the Trump administration’s favor, its effect may not be much. As BuzzFeed NewsZoe Tillman pointed out that other courts’ have imposed injunctions that still stand.

Additionally, the D.C. Circuit pointed out that their decision is not an officially published opinion, and therefore does not set any court precedent for future matters.

[Image via NBC screengrab]

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