The Supreme Court has issued a stay of injunctions on Donald Trump's ban on transgender Americans serving in the US military, allowing the White House to enforce the measure as court hearings proceed.
The nation's highest court delivered the pair of orders on Tuesday morning, effectively reinstating the administration’s ban on transgender military service as a lengthy court battle over its merit and legality continues.
The Supreme Court issued temporary stays in both Trump v Karnoski and Trump v Stockman, two cases in which lower courts had placed halts on the ban as proceedings continued. The stays were issued along party lines, with justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kegan dissenting from the decision.
The 5-4 decision marks a significant victory for Mr Trump, whose administration has battled for two years in court to deny transgender people the right to serve in all branches of the US military. While the stay is only temporary, it could reflect that the court – which now features a Republican-majority – will defer to the executive branch on matters of national security.
The court also declined to take action on the administration’s request to decide by early summer whether Mr Trump’s bid to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme was legal. Daca has been protected by several federal courts.
Based on the high court’s usual practices, the earliest the justices would hear arguments in the case would be this autumn, if they decide to hear the case at all. If arguments take place in October, a decision would not be likely before 2020, when it could affect the presidential campaign.
The transgender military ban came under attack from congressional Democrats and civil rights groups when it was announced by the president in the summer of 2017. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted: “No one with the strength & bravery to serve in the US military should be turned away because of who they are. This hateful ban is purpose-built to humiliate our brave transgender members of the military who serve with honor & dignity.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organisation, accused the Trump administration of pushing anti-transgender prejudices onto the military.
“There is simply no way to spin it, the Trump-Pence Administration is going all in on its discriminatory, unconstitutional and despicable ban on transgender troops,” said HRC president Chad Griffin.
Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & HIV Project, said the policy effectively coerced transgender people who wished to serve into choosing between their humanity and their country, and made it clear that transgender service members were not welcome.
The requirements make it challenging for a transgender recruit to pass through the military indusction process. Under guidelines presented in 2017, the Pentagon could disqualify potential recruits with gender dysphoria, those with a history of medical treatments associated with gender transition and those who underwent reconstruction.
Such recruits could be allowed in if a medical provider certified they have been clinically stable in the preferred sex for 18 months and are free of significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas.
Transgender individuals receiving hormone therapy must be stable on their medication for 18 months.
Mr Trump received recommendations from former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last February for dealing with transgender individuals serving in the military. The White House said Mr Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen agreed with the policy.
Additional reporting by AP
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