BALTIMORE, Md. (CN) – A ban on sex changes in the military will remain in place, but advocates praised a federal judge Wednesday for advancing their suit that contests the policy as transgender discrimination.
Calling the ruling a win, ACLU national staff attorney Joshua Block said in a phone interview that he anticipates that upcoming discovery will shed light on how the Trump administration instituted the ban arbitrarily, with no legitimate government interest.
“We need to know a lot more about the whole process was for arriving at this policy before deciding how much to defer to it,” Block said.
President Donald Trump set the stage for the policy shift with a series of July 2017 tweets. Though the president formalized the ban in a memorandum the following month, the policy that took effect in April was the result of an implementation plan subsequently announced by then-Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Court challenges to the ban have been brewing from the start. In the case at issue, U.S. District Judge George Russell in Maryland initially awarded lead plaintiff Brock Stone an injunction only to stayed that relief in the spring.
Russell agreed on Tuesday to dissolve the injunction, but said the evidence is plausible at this stage to support the allegation that the Mattis plan violates due-process and equal-protection rights.
“By its plain language … the implementation plan discriminates on the basis of transgender status,” Russell wrote. “In addition, the implementation plan categorically bars transgender individuals who have transitioned to their preferred gender — a recommended treatment to alleviate the distress gender dysphoria causes. Thus, contrary to defendants’ assertions that the implementation plan discriminates on the basis of gender dysphoria, it bars transgender individuals who presumably no longer suffer from the symptoms of this medical condition because they have received treatment to alleviate it. The court, therefore, concludes that the implementation plan discriminates on the basis of transgender status, not a medical condition.”
Russell called it unclear how much deference the Mattis plan is owed. To determine this, according to the ruling, “the court must be able to assess the evidence the panel gathered and the military’s evaluation of that evidence.”
“Plaintiffs are, therefore, entitled to discovery on this issue,” the ruling continues.
Russell showed interest as well in an amended version of the ACLU’s complaint that describes plans to enlist by a group of transgender plaintiffs, including Ryan Wood, Niko Branco and Teddy D’Atri.
Barred from military service unless they obtain waivers, Wood and Branco face “injuries [that] are fairly traceable to the Implementation Plan because it sets forth the provisions that bar Branco and Wood from serving in the military and an order enjoining the Implementation Plan would redress their injuries of not being permitted to join the military or having to seek a waiver to do so,” the ruling states.
Representatives for the Departments of Justice and Defense did not return a request for comment.