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Military must begin taking transgender recruits Jan. 1

By SPENCER S. HSU and ANN E. MARIMOW
The Washington Post

December 11. 2017 9:02PM
People protest President Donald Trump's announcement that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving in any capacity in the U.S. military, in Times Square, in New York City's Times Square on July 26. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo)



WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Monday denied the Trump administration’s request to delay an order requiring the military to begin accepting transgender recruits starting Jan. 1, saying the argument for more time seemed based on “vague claims.”

“The Court is not persuaded that Defendants will be irreparably injured by” meeting the New Year’s Day deadline, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

The ruling from Kollar-Kotelly of the District of Columbia follows her earlier opinion blocking the President’s ban on military recruitment of transgender men and women that possibly would have forced the dismissal of current service members starting in March.

“With only a brief hiatus, Defendants have had the opportunity to prepare for the accession of transgender individuals into the military for nearly one and a half years,” when the policy was initially issued in June 2016, she wrote. “Especially in light of the record evidence showing, with specifics, that considerable work has already been done, the Court is not convinced by the vague claims in [the government’s] declaration that a stay is needed.”

A second federal judge in Baltimore also issued a preliminary injunction in November that goes further, preventing the administration from denying funding for sex-reassignment surgeries once the order were to take effect.

Justice Department spokesman Lauren Ehrsam said in a statment, “We disagree with the Courts ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps. Plaintiffs’ lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements, as the President ordered, and because none of the Plaintiffs have established that they will be impacted by current policies on military service.”

In July, President Trump surprised military leaders and members of Congress when he announced the proposal in a series of tweets. Trump’s order reversed an Obama-era policy allowing transgender people to serve openly and receive funding for sex-reassignment surgery.

In October, Kollar-Kotelly found challengers likely to prevail in asserting that the President’s order violates equal-protection guarantees in the Constitution. The administration has appealed the ruling and in the meantime had asked the judge to temporarily postpone the recruitment requirement.

On Monday, Kollar-Kotelly noted that the government waited three weeks to appeal her October 30 order barring the military from implementing a transgender ban, did not file its motion to stay the Jan. 1 deadline until Wednesday and has not sought any sort of expedited review of her initial decision.

“The Court notes that Defendants’ portrayal of their situation as an emergency is belied by their litigation tactics,” the judge wrote, adding, “If complying with the military’s previously established January 1, 2018 deadline to begin accession was as unmanageable as Defendants now suggest, one would have expected Defendants to act with more alacrity.”

In a statement, the Pentagon said it will comply with the court’s order, while pursuing its appeal, writing that “DoD and the Department of Justice are actively pursuing relief from those court orders in order to allow an ongoing policy review scheduled to be completed before the end of March.”

After the Jan. 1 start was cleared Monday, former Navy secretary Raymond Edwin Mabus Jr. said in a statement that allowing transgender candidates to enlist is not a complicated process and that nearly all the necessary preparation had been completed by the time he left office more than a year ago. “It is inconsistent with my understanding of the status of those efforts and the working of military personnel to conclude that the military would not be prepared almost a year later — and six months after the date on which the policy was originally scheduled to take effect,” Mabus wrote.


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