President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review lower court rulings blocking a policy barring certain transgender people from serving in the military, declining to wait for the decisions from federal appeals courts currently considering the issue.
Trump announced in March that he would endorse a plan by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to restrict the military service of transgender people who experience a condition called gender dysphoria. The policy replaced an outright ban on transgender service members that Trump announced last year on Twitter, citing concern over military focus and medical costs.
But judges in federal courts in Washington state, California, and Washington, D.C., refused to lift injunctions that they had issued against Trump’s original ban to allow the updated policy to be enforced.
The judges said the new policy was essentially the same as the original ban, or was merely a plan to implement the original ban, which they had ruled would likely run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
The government’s appeals of those rulings had been moving forward. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in one case it is handling in October.
But by seeking high court review before the appeals courts have ruled, which has been a hallmark of the administration’s litigation strategy, the government said it wanted to ensure that the Supreme Court would be able to review the dispute before its term ends in June 2019.
The American Psychiatric Association defines gender dysphoria as a “clinically significant distress” due to a conflict between a person’s gender identity and their sex assigned at birth. Not all transgender people suffer from gender dysphoria, according to the association, which opposes the military ban.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; editing by Jonathan Oatis)