Transgender men and women banned from US military service during court challenge, Supreme Court rules
Donald Trump is allowed to proceed with his plan to ban transgender men and women from military service while court challenges continue, the US Supreme Court has ruled.
The White House had asked the Supreme Court to intervene after lower courts blocked the Trump administration implementing the controversial restrictions.
His administration has said there is “too great a risk to military effectiveness and lethality” to allow transgender people to serve openly, after Barack Obama allowed them to.
The court’s five conservatives backed the ban, outnumbering the four liberal judges who voted against.
There was no elaboration from the justices, just the vote, which allows the Pentagon to prevent people who have undergone a gender transition to enlist.
Mr Trump’s administration is also now allowed to require that military personnel serve under their biological gender, unless they began a gender transition under Obama administration rules.
For more than a year the president has tried to change the Obama-era rules and had called for the Supreme Court to take up cases about its transgender troop policy immediately, but the court refused, for now.
Instead, those cases will move through lower courts and could eventually reach the Supreme Court again.
It is highly likely Mr Trump’s policy will ultimately be upheld, after five justices were willing to allow it to take effect for now.
The Justice Department was pleased with the court’s decision, spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.
“The department is pleased with the orders issued by the Supreme Court today. We will continue to work with the Department of Justice regarding next steps in the pending lawsuits,” a statement said.
“We treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity.”
There are estimated to be up to 15,000 transgender troops among the roughly 1.3 million US active duty service members.
Democrats quickly condemned the court’s decision and the Trump policy it allows to go ahead.
“Prejudice is not patriotism. Discrimination is not a national security strategy,” Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.
“This ban is nothing more than bigotry codified into law and an insult to all who have worn our nation’s uniform.”
Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein said it effectively marks a return to openly gay people being barred from military service.
“The ban would essentially restore ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ for transgender service members, only allowing them to serve if they hide their true identity,” she said.
Democratic Representative Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, promised to continue fighting “against this bigoted policy”.