WASHINGTON ― A federal judge late Friday barred the federal government from implementing President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender members of the military, finding that the ban had to be subject to a careful court review before implementation because of the history of discrimination against transgender individuals.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman of the Western District of Washington ruled that transgender people were a protected class and that the injunctions against the implementation of the ban that had been issued in December should remain in place. She wrote that there was a “long and well-recognized” history of discrimination and systemic oppression against transgender people, that discrimination against transgender people was clearly “unrelated to their ability to perform and contribute to society,” that transgender people have immutable characteristics and that they lacked relative political power.
“Transgender people have long been forced to live in silence, or to come out and face the threat of overwhelming discrimination,” Pechman wrote.
“The Court also rules that, because transgender people have long been subjected to systemic oppression and forced to live in silence, they are a protected class. Therefore, any attempt to exclude them from military service will be looked at with the highest level of care, and will be subject to the Court’s ‘strict scrutiny.’ This means that before Defendants can implement the Ban, they must show that it was sincerely motivated by compelling interests, rather than by prejudice or stereotype, and that it is narrowly tailored to achieve those interests,” Pechman wrote.
While Trump had tweeted that he consulted generals and military experts about the ban, Pechman wrote that the government had “failed to identify even one General or military expert he consulted, despite having been ordered to do so repeatedly.”
Noting that Pentagon officials were surprised by the announcement and that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis got a heads up only one day beforehand, the judge wrote that she “is led to conclude that the Ban was devised by the President, and the President alone.”
Sharon McGowan, a former top official in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division who now works as director of strategy for Lambda Legal, wrote that Pechman “cut through the nonsense,” recognizing that the plan announced by the military was just a dressed-up version of Trump’s original ban.
Read Pechman’s ruling below.
Ryan Reilly is HuffPost’s senior justice reporter, covering the Justice Department, federal law enforcement, criminal justice and legal affairs. Have a tip? Reach him at email@example.com or on Signal at 202-527-9261.