One of the biggest surprises of Trump's first year in office — for both outside observers and members of his own administration — was his July 2017 tweet saying that transgender people would no longer be allowed to join the armed forces. Legal challenges to the so-called transgender ban quickly followed, but now it looks like they'll no longer stop the policy from being implemented. The Supreme Court ruled that Trump's transgender military ban will be allowed to go into effect, handing Trump a significant victory on Tuesday morning even as the ban's legal challenges continue.
"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," Trump announced in a series of three tweets in July 2017. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."
When Trump announced the policy, officials at the Pentagon said they hadn't received advance notice of the ban, and it was unclear how the administration would put it into effect. In October 2017, a judge blocked the transgender ban from going into effect, as Slate wrote at the time.
That November, the same district court judge ruled that the Trump administration had to start allowing transgender people to join the military on Jan. 1, 2018. Another court later reaffirmed the decision to hold off on the implementation of Trump's transgender ban. Since then, all transgender service members have been allowed to stay in the armed forces — but today's SCOTUS decision will change that in the near future, although it won't happen instantaneously.
In December, the Trump Justice Department requested that the Supreme Court allow the administration to implement the ban, which would effectively cancel the other judges' rulings while the case made its way through the judicial system, as CNN reports. In a five to four decision this week, the Supreme Court voted to allow the transgender ban to go into effect in the meantime, according to The New York Times.
The court was split along ideological lines, with the four liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — dissenting. According to CNN, the Supreme Court's decision to look at the case means it will likely pick it back up once the case has made its way through the lower courts.
"The fact that the Court is allowing the policy to go into effect suggests not only that it will eventually take the case on the merits," Supreme Court analyst Steve Vladeck told CNN, "but also that five of the justices believe the government is likely to prevail if and when that happens."
Despite the Supreme Court decision, a nationwide injunction remains in place for the ban, though it will likely be reversed now that the highest court has authorized the ban to take effect, as Slate's Mark Joseph Stern pointed out.
Transgender activists and allies came out strongly against the ban when Trump first announced it. Carla Lewis, a transgender activist and former Airman told Bustle it was "a disgusting political move." Now that the Supreme Court has allowed the ban to move forward at least temporarily, the chorus is just as loud.
"Let's be clear: the attempted ban on transgender service members is based on reasoning that has been thoroughly dismissed by medical organizations, military leadership, and budget analysts," tweeted Charlotte Clymer, an Army veteran and the director of communications at the Human Rights Campaign. "Its sole purpose is to erase trans people from the public square. That's all this is."