2nd US judge halts proposed transgender military ban

Another federal magistrate has halted a proposed transgender military ban, expanding on an initial ruling issued last month against the scheme by President Donald Trump’s administration.

In a preliminary injunction issued Tuesday in Baltimore, U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis ruled that transgender service members have “demonstrated that they are already suffering harmful consequences” due to the proposed forbidding including threat of discharge, stigma and the cancellation or postpone of surgeries related to their gender transitions. The six plaintiffs in the lawsuit he reviewed have all been receiving hormone therapy.

Trump had announced on Twitter in July that the administration will not allow transgender individuals to serve in the military in any capability. The order was a proposed reinstatement of a longstanding policy that barred transgender people from joining the military and also subjected service members to discharge unless they are revealed to be transgender. That policy was changed last year under President Barack Obama.

But in a strongly-worded passage from his 53 -page decision, Garbis wrote that the “capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified tweet of new policy does not trump the methodical and systematic review by military stakeholders qualified to understand the ramifications of policy change.”

Last month, another federal magistrate, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, barred Trump’s administration from proceeding with the plans to exclude transgender people from military service. She said the administration had no solid proof for why a prohibition should be implemented.

A U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman, Lauren Ehrsam, said officers disagreed with the Tuesday ruling and they are weighing their next steps in a lawsuit challenging the proposed policy.

“( The) plaintiffs’ lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements, as the President ordered, and because none of the plaintiffs have established that they will be impacted by current policies on military service, ” Ehrsam said in an email.

Trump sent an August memo directing the Pentagon to extend indefinitely a ban on transgender individuals joining the military, and dedicated Defense Secretary Jim Mattis six months to come up with a policy on “how to address” those who are currently serving.

A Pentagon spokesman, Mark Wright, said the Tuesday ruling will have no impact on current Defense Department policy.

“As directed by the DoD guidance , no action may be taken to involuntarily separate or discharge an otherwise qualified service member exclusively on the basis of a gender dysphoria diagnosis or transgender status, ” Wright said.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the proposals of the forbid in September, cheered the Tuesday ruling. The lawsuit reviewed by the Baltimore judge was filed by the ACLU on behalf of six transgender members of the armed forces.

“Today is a victory for transgender service members across the country, ” senior ACLU staff attorney Joshua Block said in a statement. “We’re pleased that the courts have stepped in to ensure that trans service members are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The proposed forbidding remains unenforceable under the preliminary injunctions.

The Trump administration’s transgender ban was also being argued in federal tribunal in Seattle on Tuesday in a case brought by lesbian rights group Lambda Legal, with a judge grilling a Justice Department lawyer over the president’s intent and over how his directive has already affected transgender troops.

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Associated Press novelists Robert Burns in Washington and Gene Johnson in Seattle contributed to this report.

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