Nearly a year and a half after President Trump first announced his plan to ban transgender people from serving in the military, the U.S. Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for the administration to carry out its plan. According to a report from Time, the ruling—decided Tuesday, January 22—has “cleared the way” for the implementation of the ban. Although there have been several injunctions against the policy from lower circuit courts, the new ruling now allows the policy to be implemented despite the fact there are cases still in litigation. Some see the ruling as a way for the Supreme Court to remain hands-off when it comes to policy decisions made by the commander in chief.
“Under Article II of the U.S. Constitution, President Trump has every right to review and change his predecessor’s policies affecting military personnel who identify as transgender or suffer from gender dysphoria,” wrote Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness. “Four federal district judges have tried to usurp presidential power, ordering the Trump administration to continue Obama-era policies.”
The ban has been controversial since its announcement. Supporters of the ban and the president see the ruling as a clear win, while people on the other side of the debate have already vowed to fight back. One tweet from California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris read, “Transgender military members have the courage to serve our country and deserve to do so. We have to fight back to reverse this.” Other prominent Democratic legislators, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, echoed Harris’ remarks.
“As always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity,” said Department of Defense (DoD) spokeswoman Lt. Col. Carla M. Gleason in a statement, according to NBC. “DoD’s proposed policy is NOT a ban on service by transgender persons. It is critical that DoD be permitted to implement personnel policies that it determines are necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world.”
Another prominent voice in the transgender rights movement is former Navy SEAL Kristin Beck, who wrote in a tweet, “The idea transgender effects [sic] ‘Lethality and effectiveness’ which is total BULL SHIT.” Beck also wrote, “18 other Nations ALLOW #Trans service members…zero issues!” Throughout her 20-year career with the Navy, Beck served in SEAL Teams One and Five, as well as with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU or SEAL Team Six.
Estimates vary on how many transgender people are currently serving in the armed forces. Nearly 1,000 military personnel “came out” as transgender in 2016 in the wake of a decision by President Obama to open up service to transgender people. A report from the Rand Corporation stated in 2016 that “the number [of transgendered service members] would likely be a small fraction of the total force and have minimal impact on readiness and health care costs.” A 2014 report from the Williams Institute at UCLA estimates the number of “transgender adults” on active duty at 8,800, with “an estimated 6,700 transgender individuals” in Guard or Reserve units.