President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would ban transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military in 2017 took many by surprise, but the Supreme Court legitimized the decision Tuesday in a 5-4 decision.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump tweeted in July 2017. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
Now, the Supreme Court, with two Trump-appointed justices, just barely allowed the decision to stand and without any official legal ruling.
Democratic lawmakers are pledging their allegiance to transgender service members and promising to work to reverse the decision, and that promise is legitimate. The Supreme Court didn’t make a legal decision to outright ban transgender troops on any constitutional grounds. Instead, its decision was to let Trump’s plan take effect without blockage from lower courts. Those lower court battles will continue.
Some of the Democratic lawmakers most eager to respond are 2020 presidential hopefuls, signaling that transgender rights and acceptance will be a constant for top Democratic candidates.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who just announced her candidacy on Monday, tweeted that “transgender military members have the courage to serve our country and deserve to do so”:
Transgender military members have the courage to serve our country and deserve to do so. We have to fight back to reverse this. https://t.co/ln495C3RUR
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 22, 2019
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a potential 2020 candidate, also showed her support:
I've said it before and I'll say it again: transgender men and women who serve our country should be thanked for their service, not attacked. https://t.co/YExmK4OCUQ
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) January 22, 2019
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called out the decision as “discrimination”:
Discrimination has no place in our military or society. It is my hope that this temporary ruling will not be the final outcome. We must stand with trans service members. Trump's efforts to divide us will not succeed. https://t.co/nOs41Ahir3
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 22, 2019
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) responded with one of the fiercest promises, saying she will “fight tooth & nail until trans Americans are free to be themselves & serve their country without discrimination”:
Banning troops based on gender identity is unconstitutional & makes us less safe. If someone enlists & can handle the job, they should be allowed to serve. I’ll fight tooth & nail until trans Americans are free to be themselves & serve their country without discrimination. https://t.co/14ZysWO8rG
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 22, 2019
According to CNN, there were almost 9,000 U.S. service members that identified as transgender in 2016. The Supreme Court decision will affect them in different ways.
Trump’s original promise to ban transgender people from serving in “any capacity” was modified by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The ban now has exceptions such as how long they completed surgery and hormone treatment before serving or if they chose not to officially change their gender.