The Trump administration has asked a federal court for an emergency stay to delay a court order to begin opening the military to transgender recruits by Jan. 1.
The move is the latest development in a complicated legal battle over President Donald Trump’s order earlier this year that transgender personnel be banned from the ranks — a policy the Pentagon is currently studying how best to carry out.
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The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier this year ordered the government to halt the administration’s ban on transgender troops while a series of legal challenges unfolded.
Specifically, the court ruled that the Pentagon had to return to the Obama-era policy allowing transgender recruits, in addition to those personnel already serving.
It was one of two federal courts to temporarily halt the ban.
Under the new Obama policy, transgender recruits were originally set to be able to join the military on July 1, 2017. But prior to Trump’s stated policy, Defense Secretary James Mattis delayed the implementation of Obama’s policy by six months, until Jan. 1, 2018, citing the need for additional study.
The government later sought clarification on whether it could further delay that deadline, but the court said last month the Jan. 1 deadline must remain.
The government is now formally appealing for a further delay while a high-level Pentagon panel reviews the issue.
“Compelling the military to implement a new accessions policy while it is simultaneously completing a comprehensive study of military service by transgender individuals that may soon result in the adoption of different accessions standards would waste significant military resources and sow unnecessary confusion among service members and applicants,” the Justice Department’s new motion argues.
Transgender advocates quickly criticized the move.
“This is the government’s further efforts to put off what the judge has ordered, which is that transgender people have to be allowed to enlist as of Jan. 1,” Jennifer Levi, a lawyer for GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, one of the plaintiffs in the court proceedings, told POLITICO. “The government has known this for a long time — both before the lawsuit, and since the judge ordered the military not to reverse the policy it had adopted allowing transgender people to enlist.”
Her group has to respond to the government’s motion by Friday.
GLAD is working with the National Center for Lesbian Rights on a lawsuit against the government over the ban. Theirs was the first of four legal cases filed against the government after the president tweeted this summer that transgender troops would no longer be able to serve “in any capacity.”