According to the Washington Post, a Supreme Court review of President Trump's transgender military ban may be on the horizon. On Friday, the administration requested that the high court consolidate all of the previous legal challenges to the policy, which have so far been successful in blocking it, and rule on the merits of the ban during the current term.
In 2016, the Obama administration began allowing transgender Americans to serve in the military, but Trump announced in July 2017 via a tweet that he would be reversing this decision. According to Fear, Bob Woodward's tell-all book about the administration, Trump's announcement caught many of the president's closest advisers off-guard, and his attempted ban was later struck down by several lower courts.
“There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all," U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in October 2017, placing a preliminary injunction against the policy. "In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects."
According to the Washington Blade, Trump's transgender military ban has been blocked by a total of eight rulings from six courts — hence the administration appealing to the Supreme Court to review the policy.
"In my professional judgment, [banning transgender service members] will place the Department of Defense in the strongest position to protect the American people, to fight and win America's wars, and to ensure the survival and success of our Service members around the world," wrote Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco in his request to the Supreme Court. It's worth noting that Francisco, despite his impressive resume as a legal expert, does not appear to have any special training, experience, or background in military matters.
When announcing the ban, Trump claimed that he was doing so due to the "tremendous medical costs" of accommodating transgender service members. However, a comprehensive 2016 study by the RAND Corporation found that integrating transgender Americans into the U.S. military would only increase the military's annual health care spending by 0.13 percent. Put differently, providing health care to transgender troops would cost roughly one-fifth as much money as the military currently spends on Viagra.
The administration said in court filings that it wants the Supreme Court to take up the transgender military ban during its current term; this would likely result in a final ruling on the policy by June 2019, when the term ends. This will only happen if the court decides to hear the administration's appeal, however. According to Bloomberg Law, the court could announce as early as Jan. 11t whether or not it intends to review the case. If it doesn't, the law would revert back to the lower court rulings that struck down the ban.
As Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed News notes, the administration's request is unusual from a procedural standpoint. Normally, claimants wait until a case has made its way through lower appeals courts before requesting a review by the Supreme Court. Under Supreme Court rules, this kind of expedited review is only granted when "the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this Court."
Earlier, the Trump administration requested that the Supreme Court issue an immediate ruling on DACA, Barack Obama's policy of protecting certain undocumented immigrants from deportation, before the appeals courts could rule on it. The administration's request was denied, and the case is currently making its way through the lower courts.