Supreme Court allows transgender military ban to take effect



FILE – In this Feb. 13, 2016, file photo, people stand on the steps of the Supreme Court at sunset in Washington. A sharply divided Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to go ahead with its plan to restrict military service by transgender men and women while court challenges continue. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick, File)

John Casey

The Supreme Court of the United States voted on Tuesday, Jan. 22 to allow President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban to take effect, sending shock waves through the LGBT community.

The 5-4 decision by the court would allow for the ban to go into action and for the lower courts to be able to hear the arguments against it, however an injunction placed by a federal judge in Maryland continues to hold the policy from going into effect according to the American Civil Liberties Union. A Justice Department official says there are plans to dissolve this remaining injunction, however, the ACLU anticipates that the judge will likely side with the Supreme Court in allowing the case to be heard by lower courts, according to CNN.

One transgender activist in New Orleans, who asked to be identified as A.J., has taken this case personally. A.J. served in the United States military from 2008 to 2010 before being discharged, and later came out as transgender in 2012. The decision by the Supreme Court troubles A.J., not just because of what they believe is a discriminatory practice, but because it alienates people who are fighting a much bigger fight.

“You have people who put their lives on the line, and even more so being strong enough to be themselves and that they know they’re doing something that not everybody agrees with but are proud to just be them,” said A.J. “Being yourself while being in the military is a true skill, and a lot of people can’t do that, and the fact that these people are strong enough to do that, that’s amazing. For them to be pinpointed as a waste of resources, a waste of personnel, that’s terrible.”

The ban was first announced in a pair of tweets from the president in July 2017 before being officially enacted by the Department of Defense in 2018. In the tweets, Trump cited “tremendous medical costs and disruption” caused by transgender service members as motivators for his decision.

Board President Dylan Waguespack of the Lousiana Transgender Advocates said they are extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court’s action.

“Our position is that trans-people, should they choose the military as their career, should be allowed to serve,” Waguespack said. “We think that it is incredibly harmful to set up a system of discrimination where the military could discharge people just because of their gender identity with no relation to their ability to do the job.”

The decision is not concrete on the complete prohibition of transgender members of the military according to a implementation plan released by the White House.

The implementation plan specifically targets individuals who are diagnosed with a condition known as gender dysphoria. The American Psychiatric Association defines gender dysphoria as a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which the person identifies.

Individuals who are diagnosed with the condition and require surgery are prohibited from joining or continuing service in the military, but those who do not require treatment or surgery and are deemed deployable are allowed to serve according to a Department of Defense memo to the president.

According to the Pentagon, there are roughly 8,980 transgender service members, of which 937 were diagnosed with gender dysphoria during the Obama administration.

Efforts to counter the decision and put pressure on lawmakers to fight the transgender military ban are being led by LGBT associations like the Louisiana Transgender Advocates.

“We’ll be writing to our members of congress to ask that they support a legislative fix to this issue and we will certainly be asking our membership across the state to take action as well,” said Waguespack. “A large portion of them are veterans or active service members, so we know that those folks will definitely make their voices heard.

Although A.J. is not one of the 1,500 members of the Louisiana Transgender Advocates, they too will be taking action of their own to fight the decision.

“I try to go out and get involved in marches all the time, any time I am able to go out and make my voice heard, I do,” said A.J.

Waguespack’s hopes are high that the ban will ultimately falter before the law of the United States.

“We are not happy with the decision, however we are confident that the troops are going to be successful in the Supreme Court,” said Waguespack. “This ban will be overturned eventually.”