WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge in Washington, D.C, ruled Monday that a challenge against President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender troops serving openly in the military can move forward, but without the president as a defendant.
In a 34-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected several challenges by the government against unnamed transgender troops’ claims that the ban would irreparably damage them. Those challenges included a request to dissolve a preliminary injunction the judge issued in October of last year that halted the policy, as well as a broader dismissal of the complaint based on an amended version of the transgender ban released in March.
But neither challenge was persuasive to the 75-year-old Bill Clinton appointee.
“The court found that a number of factors—including the breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the president’s announcement of them, the fact that the reasons given for them did not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself—strongly suggested that plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim was meritorious,” wrote Kollar-Kotelly, who began the opinion with a mention of Trump’s July 2017 tweet announcing his plan to ban new transgender recruits as well as the dismissal of any active-duty transgender troops.
And while lawyers for the government had argued Defense Secretary James Mattis had narrowed the ban with a revised memorandum in March, along with a report which portrayed transgender service members as unfit for service, Kollar-Kotelly continued to point to the lack of factual basis for denying Americans the right to serve because of their gender identity.
“The report suggests that they are a detriment to military readiness and unit cohesion. It likens gender dysphoria to conditions such as ‘bipolar disorder, personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, suicidal behavior, and even body dysmorphic disorder,’” she wrote. “It concludes that individuals with gender dysphoria or who have undergone or will require gender transition are more likely to have other mental health conditions and substance abuse problems, and to commit suicide… It is worth noting that these conclusions were immediately denounced by the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association.”
Kollar-Kotelly’s order will allow the case to proceed, but government lawyers did win on one request: removing Trump as a defendant in the case.
“Because no relief will be granted directly against the president in this case, the court will dismiss him as a party to avoid unnecessary constitutional confrontations,” she wrote in a separate 9-page order also released Monday.
The order not only removed the president as a defendant, it also denied plaintiffs’ ability to discover evidence from him.
But Kollar-Kotelly stressed the court still has the ability to “review the legality of the president’s actions” and that the unnamed transgender troops who filed the suit “can still obtain all of the relief that they seek” if the court finds in their favor in the end.