The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed for the reinstatement of the Trump administration’s policy barring most transgender people from enlisting and serving in the military, frustrating the LGBTQ community and its allies.
In a 5-4 vote, the justices lifted nationwide injunctions that kept the administration’s policy from being implemented. Now, the ban can go into effect, while lower courts continue to assess the merits of challenges to the policy.
Local LGBTQ activists say that the ban is the Trump administration’s continued effort to dish out unwavering attacks against the transgender community. Amber Hikes, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, said in a Jan. 22 statement that she “will continue to work with our residents to resist acts of hatred against those of us who remain the most targeted, discriminated, and marginalized.
“This ban is an act of hatred and a flagrant abuse of power by the Trump administration. It is a direct attack on the transgender community and an extension of the current administration’s continued transphobic agenda and assault on the rights and dignity of transgender Americans,” Hikes said. “As the litigation continues, we can only hope that the judiciary will ultimately strike down this unconstitutional, transphobic policy.”
Trump initially announced the policy in 2017 on Twitter. The policy was later officially released by then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis in March 2018. The policy stipulates, “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.”
Deja Lynn Alvarez, a trans-rights activist currently running for an at-large seat on Philadelphia’s City Council, said the “discriminatory policy is in direct violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.”
The clause, which is part of the Fourteenth Amendment, in part says: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”
“This is a highly discriminative policy based on gender identity rather than a person’s ability to serve and protect their country,” Alvarez told PGN. “We are thankful for all that are willing to serve and protect this country at all costs. History has taught us that the capacity to serve as a United States solider is not dependent on gender.”
An estimated 134,000 American veterans are transgender and more than 15,000 trans people are currently serving in the military, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, a transgender-rights advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Transgender Equality reported in 2015 that transgender people experience unemployment at three times the rate of the general population. The ban could add to the high unemployment rate of trans people, said Atticus Ranck, the health programs and supportive-services manager at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown.
“I think we’re going backwards. I didn’t expect this,” Ranck said. “We’ve been let down because the system isn’t working. Anyone who wants to serve his or her country that is able and capable to do it should be allowed regardless of gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. To deny [trans people] the opportunity to serve is horrible. Now they might be out of a job and finding a job as a trans person is already difficult.”
To complicate matters, this policy, which could end the careers of many patriots, may be enacted while the country is still in the midst of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which already has left more than 800,000 federal workers without pay.
Ranck, along with other trans community members and allies in Lehigh Valley, led a rally at Bradbury-Sullivan the night of the ruling, where more than 60 people attended in support of open service for transgender service members.
“The ban on trans military service harms our country and causes immediate harm to transgender service members. America deserves better,” said Adrian Shanker, Bradbury-Sullivan’s executive director.
Pa. State Rep. Brian Sims, an openly gay Democrat who represents the 182nd District, released a statement on Jan. 22, saying he was “disgusted by the Court’s decision” but not surprised by the move.
“As the son of two lieutenant colonels, I’ve witnessed the dedication and sacrifice exhibited by our service members all across our nation. I cannot fathom the pain and indignity our transgender military members feel in the wake of this unconscionable decision,” Sims said. “We owe these soldiers and veterans our gratitude as well as our commitment to ensuring that this shameful moment in our history is never repeated again. It is incumbent upon Congress to act without delay to defend thousands of transgender service members from their capricious and destructive commander-in-chief.”