Trump’s Ban on Transgender Military Service Blocked by Second Judge

BALTIMORE (CN) — A second federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Trump administration’s order barring transgender people from the military, saying it “cannot possibly constitute a legitimate governmental interest,” and that President Trump’s announcing it on Twitter was “capricious, arbitrary and unqualified.”

In a 53-page order, U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis blocked the presidential order a month after a federal judge in the District of Columbia partially blocked it.

Garbis’ order blocks the Trump administration from banning transgender people from joining the military and from withholding money for gender reassignment surgeries.

Trump announced the order in a string of tweets on July 26, then waited nearly a month to issue a formal order. Six transgender military members joined the ACLU in filing a lawsuit on Aug. 28, three days after Trump issued the official order.

Represented by ACLU attorney Deborah Jeon and Covington Burling attorney Marianne Kies, they claim that barring transgender men and women from joining the military violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fifth Amendment.

They also say preventing federal dollars from going to gender reassignment surgeries violates a federal law on medical and dental care for military members.

Garbis agreed with the service members’ constitutional claims, saying Trump’s order was the result of a clearly haphazard process.

“The lack of any justification for the abrupt policy change, combined with the discriminatory impact to a group of our military service members who have served our country capably and honorably, cannot possibly constitute a legitimate governmental interest,” Garbis wrote.

Garbis specifically took issue with Trump declaring the order on Twitter, calling the announcement “capricious, arbitrary and unqualified.”

Garbis found the military members would suffer from the ban on service and the ban on surgeries and so have standing to sue. Garbis, a George H.W. Bush appointee, rejected aside the government’s argument that the challenge is premature because the administration has not yet fully implemented the policy.

“Waiting until after the directives have been implemented to challenge their alleged violation of constitutional rights only subjects them to substantial risk of even greater harms,” Garbis wrote.

Garbis rejected the claim that cited military health and dental care requirements, with leave to amend.

The Department of Justice said it disagreed with Garbis’ ruling and is evaluating its next move.

“Plaintiffs’ lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements, as the president ordered, and because none of the plaintiffs have established that they will be impacted by the current policies on military service,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said.

Garbis’ opinion blocks the Trump administration’s policy across the country.

Civil rights groups praised the ruling.

“Today is a victory for transgender service members across the country,” said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project. “We’re pleased that the courts have stepped in to ensure that trans service members are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

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