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Supreme Court Rules to Allow Trump's Transgender Military Ban to Continue... for Now

In a victory for the rule of law, the Supreme Court defended President Donald Trump's sovereignty over the U.S. military on Tuesday. Lower courts had issued a "stay" on Trump's policy involving military service for transgender people, which a federal district court struck down. The Supreme Court refused to reverse the district court decision, which will allow Trump's policy to come into effect.

The Court denied certiorari in three related cases: Trump v. KarnoskiTrump v. Jane Doe 2, and Trump v. Stockman. Each case challenged the president's ability to determine who is and is not eligible for military service.

President Trump has declared his intention to prevent people who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or identify as transgender from serving in the military. His actual military policy, named "the Mattis Plan" after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, is narrowly tailored and allows some transgender people to serve within strict limitations.

The Mattis Plan was proposed last February, and the District Court of Washington, D.C. issued an injunction to prevent the policy from taking place. In a decision this month, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the injunction, arguing in part that the Mattis Plan is not a blanket ban on transgender people serving in the military.

"Although the Mattis Plan continues to bar many transgender persons from joining or serving in the military, the record indicates that the Plan allows some transgender persons barred under the military's standards prior to the [previous policy] to join and serve in the military," the court ruled."The Mattis Plan, for example, contains a reliance exemption that will allow at least some transgender service members to continue to serve and receive gender transition-related medical care."

The court further rejected the idea that "all transgender individuals either (1) have gender dysphoria or (2) transition to their preferred gender." The judges argued that "we can find nothing in the record to support this definition of being transgender, as all of the reports supporting both the Carter Policy and the Mattis Plan defined transgender persons as 'identifying' with a gender other than their biological sex. Indeed, those reports repeatedly state that not all transgender persons seek to transition to their preferred gender or have gender dysphoria."

According to the Mattis Plan:

Transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria are disqualified from military service, except under the following limited circumstances: (1) if they have been stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession; (2) Service members diagnosed with gender dysphoria after entering into service may be retained if they do not require a change of gender and remain deployable within applicable retention standards; and (3) currently serving Service members who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria since the previous administration's policy took effect and prior to the effective date of this new policy, may continue to serve in their preferred gender and receive medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria."