A federal court on Thursday struck down the Trump administration’s appeal to keep transgender recruits from joining the U.S. military in January – just 11 days before the policy was set to take effect.
A three-judge panel on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia decided not grant the White House a delay in allowing transgender recruits in the military. The administration argued that it has not yet put processes in place to screen and accept such recruits.
The Pentagon said last week that the enlistment of transgender recruits will begin in January despite the legal battles. The Department of Justice said it disagrees with the ruling on Thursday and is considering further steps.
The government went to the appeals court after a U.S. district judge in Baltimore halted the proposed ban in November. The order on Thursday leaves President Donald Trump with no other option than appealing the decision to the Supreme Court.
Trump announced the ban in July, saying that the federal government “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military” – reversing a 2016 policy under President Barack Obama.
He added: “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.”
The president later formally directed the Pentagon to extend indefinitely the ban on transgender people in the military, giving Defense Secretary Jim Mattis six months to come up with a plan on how to deal with those already serving.
The proposed ban sparked several legal challenges led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of six current transgender members of the military.
The ACLU celebrated the latest court order, saying in a statement: “We are happy that the court saw through the government’s smoke screen and rejected its request to further delay the policy allowing transgender people to enlist.
“The military has already developed comprehensive guidance to prepare for a January 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 Associated Press contributed to this report.