In a 5-4 decision on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to implement its policy banning transgender people from serving in the military while the legal battle over the restrictions continues in lower courts.
The move is a provisional victory for the administration, its first since President Donald Trump surprised everyone in the summer of 2017 by tweeting his intention to ban transgender troops from serving. The policy, which was refined by then Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, broadly bans transgender people who are seeking to transition from serving in the military. It allows exceptions for those already serving openly and for those willing to serve "in their biological sex" without transitioning.
In 2016, the Obama administration allowed transgender troops to serve openly and allow them to access healthcare, including gender confirmation surgeries. Transgender people were allowed then to start enlisting in January 2018, while the Trump administration fought against nationwide injunctions on the ban.
Tuesday's order to lift the injunctions was unsigned, but supported by the court's five conservative justices. All the liberal justices in the bench — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — dissented, arguing the injunctions should remain in place while the Supreme Court debates over the merits of the case.
LGBTQ+ advocates opposed the Supreme Court's decision and expressed hope that the lower courts will block the policy once again. "Our country owes a debt of gratitude to the thousands of transgender people serving in our armed forces," said Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, in a statement provided to Refinery29.
"Multiple federal courts have recognised that excluding qualified individuals simply because they are transgender is contrary to basic constitutional principles of equality and fairness. We are confident the courts will ultimately protect the integrity of our nation’s military and hold that transgender service members must be evaluated based on the same standards applied to all others, not barred from service based on a characteristic that has no relevance to their fitness to serve."