A three-judge panel on a federal appeals court ruled Thursday against the Trump administration’s efforts to delay accepting transgender recruits into the military.
A two-paragraph order said Judges Diana Gribbon Motz, Albert Diaz and Pamela Harris on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Virginia are denying the administration’s request to delay the Jan. 1 deadline, without further explanation. The decision sets up the case for a potential appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Pentagon is set to begin accepting transgender troops into the military Jan. 1 after court orders required it adhere to the date. That date was planned before President Trump announced he would ban transgender people from serving.
Trump announced the ban on Twitter in July and followed through with a memo in August. Four lawsuits were filed against the ban, and so far, judges in three of them have said the ban cannot take effect while the cases work their way through the courts. The judge in the fourth has not yet ruled on a preliminary injunction.
The Trump administration appealed the preliminary injunctions and asked that the courts allow the Pentagon to delay accepting transgender recruits while the appeals are being decided.
Thursday’s ruling came in a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of six current members of the Armed Forces who are transgender.
"We are happy that the court saw through the government’s smokescreen and rejected its request to further delay the policy allowing transgender people to enlist," Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement.
"The military has already developed comprehensive guidance to prepare for a Jan. 1 start date, and the government failed to offer any credible reason why transgender people should be barred from enlisting if they can meet the same rigorous standards that apply to everyone else.”
The Pentagon issued a memo Dec. 8 detailing how the military will process transgender recruits that specifies everything from which underwear they will be required to wear to what documents will be accepted to prove gender identity.
Opponents of Trump’s ban said the memo proves the Pentagon is ready to begin accepting transgender recruits, contrary to administration lawyers’ arguments.