The Supreme Court by a 5 to 4 unsigned decision allows the implementation of President Donald Trump’s reversal of the Obama-era policy of allowing transgender soldiers into the military.

Trump first tweeted in 2017 that he was going to reverse the policy.

Trump issued a memorandum in March 2018 disqualifying transgender individuals from serving in the military, stating that the defense secretary and the homeland security secretary should “exercise their authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals.”

The memorandum also said individuals with a history of gender dysphoria, defined as “those who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery,” are disqualified from military service “except under certain limited circumstances.”

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis then in 2018 released an implementation plan for Trump’s policy that would allow transgender people to serve if they do so in their biological sex.

Mattis cited “substantial risks” about military personnel who seek to change or who question their gender identity. He found that individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria presented a risk to military effectiveness and “could undermine readiness, disrupt unit cohesion, and impose an unreasonable burden on the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality.” 

Mattis offered three exceptions in his memo:

  1. If a person diagnosed with gender dysphoria can demonstrate a period of at least 36 months where they no longer suffer from the psychological condition;
  2. Those diagnosed with gender dysphoria who do not seek to “transition” (receive hormone drugs and undergo plastic and other surgery), and are deployable, may also serve; and
  3. Those who have already been serving prior to the effective date of the new policy will not be discharged.

Four lawsuits were filed to block the implementation of Trump’s policy and had received preliminary injunctions. Earlier in January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed one of the injunctions in one of the lawsuits.

Social conservative groups applauded the decision.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for the rule of law and a victory for the U.S. Constitution,” American Principles Project Executive Director Terry Schilling said.

“In 2016, it became very clear that President Obama prioritized his social engineering agenda over the well-being and security of our nation, and his military policy was no exception. The Pentagon has no business using our precious tax dollars allocated to defending our nation for funding sex-change hormone treatments and surgeries,” Schilling said.

“For this reason, we are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Pentagon to continue improving military policy after the disastrous Obama years. There seems to always be an activist judge willing to invent grounds to strike down any executive action taken by President Trump, but as Commander-in-Chief, the President has the duty — and the constitutional authority — to defend our military from progressive social experimentation, ensure military readiness, and safeguard morale,” he added.

“It’s refreshing to see the U.S. Supreme Court rein in lower court judges who are bent on telling the commander-in-chief how to run the military. Those charged with the difficult and complex work of keeping our nation safe cannot do their job with rogue judges injecting their personal opinions into every social issues case which reaches their courts. With different judges issuing these different opinions all over the country, our nation will quickly become paralyzed. There is a reason the Constitution so clearly explains that the president is the final authority on military policy. The Constitution grants judges no power to divert military resources away from preparing to fight wars and into social engineering,” Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, said in a statement.

“There are literally hundreds of conditions or physical limitations disqualifying people from military service. Does that make the military exclusionary? Yes. But the Pentagon isn’t in the business of equality. It’s in the business of fighting and winning wars. Either the military’s priority is protecting America — or it’s helping people on the path to self-actualization. It can’t do both,” Perkins added.

The Obama Administration’s policy was not well received among military members. A new Smithsonian Magazine survey finds that 61 percent of active service members and veterans opposed the change.

Photo credit: Tim Sackton (CC-By-SA 2.0)

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