Appeals court rebuffs delay in transgender military enlistments

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The first federal appeals court has rebuffed the Trump administration’s request for additional delay in transgender enlistments in the U.S. military, setting up potential action on the issue from the U.S. Supreme Court by the end of the year.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the U.S. Justice Department’s request for a stay on U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis’s decision against Trump’s transgender military ban as it pertains to enlistments.

The simple two-page order without much discussion announces the Fourth Circuit has rejected the administration’s stay “upon consideration” of the briefs of the parties as well as friend-of-the-court briefs in the case.

The three-judge panel who rejected the stay consists of U.S. Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, a Clinton appointee; U.S. Circuit Judge Albert Diaz, an Obama appointee; and U.S. Circuit Judge Pamela Harris, another Obama appointee.

Lauren Ehrsam, a Justice Department spokesperson, said the Trump administration is disappointed with the decision, but stopped short of committing to appeal.

“We disagree with the court’s ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps,” Ehrsam said.

Should the Justice Department seek to appeal, the request would be sent to U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, who could decide the matter himself or refer it to the entire court.

The Fourth Circuit was the first federal appeals court to weigh in on Trump’s transgender military ban. The three other decisions against the policy have all come from trial courts. The Fourth Circuit case, Stone v. Trump, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Although the Justice Department has appealed all the court orders against the transgender military ban, the administration at this time is only seeking a ban on transgender enlistments, which are set to begin Jan. 1.

The Pentagon affirmed earlier this month it would allow openly transgender enlistments at that time as a result of a court orders against Trump’s ban. Opponents of the ban submitted Dec. 8 memo signed by Defense Secretary James Mattis on the details of transgender enlistments as evidence the U.S. military is prepared to allow transgender enlistments.

Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the LGBT HIV Project, praised the Fourth Circuit for denying the Justice Department’s request for a stay.

“We are happy that the court saw through the government’s smokescreen and rejected its request to further delay the policy allowing transgender people to enlist,” Block said. “The military has already developed comprehensive guidance to prepare for a Jan. 1 start date, and the government failed to offer any credible reason why transgender people should be barred from enlisting if they can meet the same rigorous standards that apply to everyone else.”

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