Trump administration asks Supreme Court to immediately take up transgender military ban

Protesters gather in front of the White House in 2017.
(Paul J. Richards / AFP-Getty Images)
Washington Post

The Trump administration on Friday once again asked the Supreme Court to bypass the usual legal process to take on another controversial issue — President Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from military service.

Solicitor Gen. Noel Francisco asked the justices to consolidate the challenges to the ban — which so far have been successful in lower courts — and rule on the issue in its current term.

The challenges are to the administration’s order that would prohibit transgender men and women from enlisting, possibly subject current service members to discharge and deny certain medical care. The order reverses an Obama administration policy allowing transgender men and women to serve openly and to receive funding for sex-reassignment surgery.

Federal judges so far have prohibited the Trump order from being implemented.

“The decisions imposing those injunctions are wrong, and they warrant this Court’s immediate review,” Francisco wrote.


Trump in July 2017 surprised military leaders and members of Congress when he abruptly announced the proposed ban in several tweets. Trump said he was “doing the military a great favor” by “coming out and just saying it.”

Challengers have used such statements to argue that the directive is the result of discrimination rather than a study of how allowing transgender personnel affects the military, and lower court judges largely have agreed.

“There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all. In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects,” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a case filed in the District of Columbia.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear an appeal of the ruling next month.

The Trump administration has taken an aggressive posture when lower courts have ruled against it on important issues. It has asked the Supreme Court — with varying degrees of success — to accept the cases before they have run through the normal appeals process. The administration argues that such cases can only be settled by the high court.

The effort has drawn criticism from those who say such requests put the Supreme Court in position to be seen as doing the administration’s bidding.

“Under Trump, the Justice Department has shown little respect to judges who rule against it — or who don’t rule for it quickly enough,” Joshua Matz, a lawyer who filed an amicus brief on behalf of the transgender ban, wrote in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post.

“Trump’s lawyers fail to understand that the government is not entitled to play leapfrog whenever it loses in federal court. If the department’s battery of ‘emergency’ petitions were granted, they would immediately overload the Supreme Court docket with politically fraught challenges to Trump administration policies.”

Robert Barnes writes for the Washington Post.