A federal appeals court has issued a mandate confirming its order to allow enforcement of President Trump’s transgender military ban, clearing the way for the administration to implement the policy.
A three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the mandate Tuesday after a trial judge, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, affirmed her injunction against the Trump policy was still in effect and the administration was “incorrect” in moving forward with plans to initiate it April 12.
The panel consists of of U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Williams, a Reagan appointee; U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith, a George W. Bush appointee; and U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Wilkins, an Obama appointee.
The judges had earlier sided with Trump on his transgender military policy in a January ruling. The mandate brings that ruling into effect, placing a stay on the last of four court injunctions that had once barred the administration from the implementing the transgender policy.
The Defense Department earlier this month announced plans to implement the transgender ban on April 12 in the aftermath of orders from the U.S. Supreme Court placing a stay on two of those injunctions as litigation against the policy proceeded through the courts. A federal judge in Maryland subsequently lifted his injunction to comply with guidance from the Supreme Court.
But transgender advocates insisted the Trump administration wasn’t able to move forward with the policy because the D.C. Circuit had yet to issue its mandate against the last-standing injunction. After Kollar-Kotelly issued a notice agreeing them, the U.S. government filed an emergency motion before the D.C. Circuit seeking the mandate.
The case before the D.C. Circuit was filed on behalf of transgender plaintiffs by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLTBQ Advocates & Defenders.
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, affirmed with mandate now issued “there is no legal barrier to the government’s intended plan to start enforcing the Mattis ban on April 12.”
Kelly Laco, a Justice Department spokesperson, said in the response to the mandate the administration is happy with the D.C. Circuit’s action.
“We are pleased the court cleared the way for the Department of Defense to be able to implement personnel policies it determined necessary to best defend our nation,” Laco said.
The Defense Department didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on the mandate.
Under the ban, no transgender person currently in the U.S. military who already disclosed a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or has sought transition-related care including gender reassignment surgery, is expected to be expelled. The policy contains an exemption for those service members.
However, as a result of the policy, individuals who have sought to obtain transition-related care or been diagnosed with gender dysphoria will not be able to enlist in the armed forces. Moreover, service members not included in the exemption who are later diagnosed with gender dysphoria or seek transition-related care will be discharged.
Even though the target date for implementation of the ban is still weeks away and on its face the policy contains an exemption for certain transgender currently in service,, Minter said troops are already feeling its impact.
“We are concerned by the serious harms that the imminent enforcement of the Mattis ban is already causing, both to the military and to transgender service members, many of whom are now scrambling to come out and initiate a gender transition before the April 12 deadline in order to be included in the so-called ‘grandfather’ provision,” Minter said. “The government’s plan is already wreaking havoc in the lives of dedicated transgender troops who must now face the grim choice of suppressing their identity or leaving military service, to the detriment of their fellow service members and national security.”
Minter said the issuance of the mandate “only drives home the urgency of continuing to fight this destructive policy” and his legal team will continue to fight it in district court.
Although another option for the legal team is a petition before the Supreme Court, Minter said the legal team does “not intend to seek review” there. (The chance of success would be nil in the aftermath of the orders from the Supreme Court in January allowing the policy to go into effect.)