An appeals court in the US has ordered a judge to reconsider her ruling against the ban on most trans servicepeople serving in the military.
This comes after the Supreme Court allowed the trans military ban to take effect in April while legal arguments continue.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a ruling by US District Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle.
Pechman had argued that the ban violated the constitutional rights of trans people serving in the military.
However, the San Francisco-based appeals court argued that Pechman had not given the military’s judgment enough deference, and ordered her to give it more, Reuters reports.
The ruling is a small victory for US President Donald Trump, who proposed a complete ban on trans troops in July 2017.
The proposed ban was met with numerous delays and legal obstacles for around 20 months. A watered-down version came into effect earlier this year.
A 2016 survey suggested there may be an estimated 10,000 trans individuals serving in the US military.
Ongoing legal battles
This is the latest in a series of legal battles surrounding the ban since Trump tweeted the proposal almost two years ago.
Pechman is one of four federal judges to rule against the Trump administration’s policy.
While the appeal court’s ruling slightly strengthens the Trump administration’s position, the government will still have to justify its policy.
In his tweets, the president said he would implement a complete ban on trans people serving in the US military.
He rationalized the ban by claiming that trans service members were a great cost. This claim was quickly proven to be false.
Trump later proposed a watered-down version of the ban which was drawn up by then Defence Secretary James Mattis. The revised version only applies to openly trans people or those who are undergoing gender affirmation treatment.
However, in April 2018 Pechman extended her injunction to the revised policy. The judge said there was no evidence that trans troops reduced military effectiveness, and said that the ban undermined trans troops’ dignity.
While the appeals court said that while the revised policy ‘discriminates on the basis of transgender status’, it said it was ‘significantly different’ from its original incarnation.
‘On the current record […] a presumption of deference is owed, because the 2018 policy appears to have been the product of independent military judgment,’ the court said.
But the court also added that the government must still prove that the policy significantly furthered its important interests. Proving this point ‘is not a trivial burden’ the court added.
Sharon McGowan, the legal director of Lambda Legal – which represents opponents of the ban – said that that the ruling would lead to the ‘vindication of the constitutional right of the transgender service members who have been harmed by this policy.’
‘An act of cruelty’
Since its inception, the ban has been widely condemned by LGBTI rights advocates, opposition politicians, and numerous former military personnel.
Critics have compared it to the reintroduction of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ rule, which was repealed under President Barak Obama.
Numerous high-profile Democrats have been vocal in denouncing the ban.
In April, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned it as an ‘act of cruelty’. She added that the ban would leave the Trump administration’s legacy in the ‘dustbin of history’.
A number of former military personnel have also criticized the move.
Former four-star army general Stanely McCrystal has also spoken out against the ban, labeling it as ‘a mistake’. Trans rights advocate and former Navy SEAL Kristen Beck has also been highly outspoken on the ban.
Several military institutions have said that the ban has come into effect. The US Navy Academy and the US Coast Guard Academy both confirmed they will not accept trans students by 2020.
However, other military organizations have pledged to defy the ban.
National Guard leaders in the states of California, New Mexico, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington have said they will refuse to discharge trans troops serving in their ranks.
The rolling back of trans rights in the US
The trans military ban is another instance of the Trump administration’s rolling back of trans rights in the US.
In October 2018, the White House received widespread condemnation after a leaked memo suggested that the Department of Health and Human Services was planning to restrict the definition of sex to genitalia at birth.
Many trans rights supporters said that the move would ‘legally erase’ trans people. Trans rights advocates, multinational businesses and members of the science community took a stand against the move.
The White House has also made moves to roll back Obama-era legislation protecting the rights of trans students in US schools and trans prisoners.