November 28, 2017 at 12:51 pm PST | by Chris Johnson
Court: DOD can’t delay transgender enlistments beyond Jan. 1
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A federal court has clarified DOD can’t delay transgender enlistments beyond Jan. 1.

In response to a request to clarify a court order against President Trump’s transgender military ban, a federal judge has ruled neither Trump, nor the Pentagon, may delay transgender enlistments any further than a Jan. 1 target date.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a Clinton appointee, issued the clarification Monday in response to a request from the U.S. Justice Department in the case of Doe v. Trump, the initial lawsuit against the ban filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders.

The request from the Justice Department last week asserts Kollar-Kotelly couldn’t have meant her order bars Defense Secretary James Mattis from extending his delay on transgender accessions beyond the Jan. 1 target date because plaintiffs “only sought prospective relief to enjoin the secretary from implementing the president’s memorandum,” which was a measure subsequent to Mattis’ memo.

“Out of an abundance of caution, however, defendants now seek clarification that, should the secretary of defense exercise such discretion, the secretary’s action would not violate the court’s Oct. 30, 2017, order,” the filing says.

Mattis issued his memo on June 30 to delay transgender enlistments, which were set to begin at that time as result of a policy change during the Obama administration under Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, until Jan. 1 in response to a request from military service chiefs for more time to implement the policy. (Transgender people currently serving in the armed forces as a result of the Obama-era policy were allowed to stay.)

Kollar-Kotelly explains her order intended to revert the military’s policy on transgender troops to the “status quo” before Trump issued his directive banning transgender military service, which means the Mattis memo is now lawful policy.

To clarify on whether Mattis is free to extend the ban on transgender enlistments any further, Kollar-Kotelly writes “any action by any of the defendants that changes this status quo is preliminarily enjoined.”

Since Mattis is named defendant in the case, that prohibits him from delaying transgender enlistments any longer than Jan. 1 — the target date in his June 30 memo. At that time, the Trump administration will be required to allow qualified transgender people to enlist into the armed forces.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the clarification confirms “transgender people must be permitted to enlist on Jan. 1, 2018, as previously scheduled.”

“We are very pleased that Judge Kollar-Kotelly confirmed her prior ruling and that transgender people who can meet the same qualifications as others will be eligible to enlist,” Minter said. “As the court has already determined, there is no justification for excluding transgender people from military service. The order applies to the president and to military officials.”

The Justice Department has already appealed Kollar-Kotelly’s order — the first against Trump’s transgender military ban — to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Last week, U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis issued a second order against Trump’s policy as a result of a separate lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The two lawsuits are among four lawsuits filed against Trump’s transgender military ban. Another was filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, and another was filed by Equality California.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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