The Supreme Court announced this morning that the Trump administrations’ ban on transgender military service can immediately take effect, impacting over 9,000 Service members, but the Supreme Court declined hear arguments regarding the ban’s constitutionality. Appeals to lower courts will continue but the Supreme Court issued a stay of lower courts’ injunctions which prevented the policy from being implemented when it was tweeted in 2017.
In a 5-4 vote, the more liberal Supreme Court Justices all voted against granting the stay, while Chief Justice John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh voted to immediately implement the ban. The Supreme Court decided against hearing arguments as to whether the ban was constitutional but multiple lower courts have ruled that the policy is most likely unconstitutional.
On January 3rd, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit reversed an injunction against the implementation of the policy. This ruling did not immediately go into effect because there were multiple district court injunctions. However, the Supreme Court ruling halts the enforcement of all injunctions. This is the first time Trump’s transgender ban will be allowed to go into full effect.
In July 2017, Trump tweeted, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept nor allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military;” this tweet surprised the Pentagon and was later officially released by former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis. While Trump’s initially tweet alludes to an outright ban of Transgender individuals from military service, the official policy from Mattis bans individuals from military service if they have transitioned and if they have a condition known as gender dysphoria.
A 2016 Obama administration policy first allowed transgender individuals to serve and transgender individuals have been able to join the military since 2018. Trump administration officials have repeatedly emphasized their concern over the effects transgender troops serving openly might have on health care costs within and the “readiness and lethality” of the military. A 2016 RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting these troops serve openly would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and health care costs, largely because there are so few in the military’s 1.3 million-member force.
Specifically, the study estimates that total costs for hormone treatment and gender transition surgery could range from $2.4 to $8.4 million, an amount which would also represent “an exceedingly small proportion” of total military health care expenditures, which amount to more than $50 billion dollars per year, including $84 million a year on erectile dysfunction medications.
Media Resources: Buzzfeed News 1/22/19; CNN 1/22/19; Feminist Newswire 7/26/17; Forbes 3/12/12; The RAND Corporation 2016