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The Supreme Court Just Took a Giant Step Towards Upholding Donald Trump’s Despicable Transgender Military Ban

Donald Trump stands at a podium in the Oval Office with Mike Pence behind him.

In a devastating blow to transgender rights, the Supreme Court ruled this morning to at least temporarily uphold Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.

The ban–which Trump first announced on Twitter in July of 2017, reportedly with little to no input from his defense secretary–had been hit with a number of injunctions from lower courts where lawsuits had been filed against the president. Now, in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court has lifted two of those injunctions. They did not release an explanation for the decision–and, importantly, they did not actually rule on the ban itself, only on other courts’ injunctions–but the vote was straight down liberal/conservative lines, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissenting.

So what does this mean? The lifting of these injunctions is a scary, insulting, and dangerous step toward enforcing Trump’s trangender military ban, but it’s not the final step. For now, that ban is still blocked by other injunctions that SCOTUS wasn’t asked to review.

However, the New York Times reports that the court’s ruling allows Trump’s ban to go into effect while those remaining cases are being worked through in the lower courts.

Trump’s ban overturned an Obama-era ruling allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military. In August of 2017, Trump’s secretary of defense Jim Mattis put out the actual policy enforcing Trump’s tweets, with some refinements, specifically opening the door for potential exceptions to the ban to be made for currently serving members of the military. It would also possibly make an exception for, as the Washington Post reports, “others who would serve in accordance with their birth gender.” In other words, people who would go back into the closet and ignore their true gender identity.

Originally, Trump had declared a ban on all transgender people serving in the armed forces. His primary justification was the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” caused by trans service members. That, as we know, is just a plain lie. That’s what was decided by the experts who advised Obama over his 2016 decision.

A RAND study at the time found that there are approximately 2,450 transgender people serving in the military, out of about 1.3 million active service members. Only a tiny subset of those (between 29 and 129 people per year) would require additional transition-related medical services while serving. They found that the cost of extending gender transition-related health care coverage to transgender personnel would increase active-duty health care costs by a mere  0.04- to 0.13-percent. That’s not exactly “tremendous.”

“Even upper-bound estimates indicate that less than 0.1 percent of the total force would seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy,” the study reads.

Trump’s argument that transgender people are a “disruption” and a financial drain on the military is a lie. But it reinforces a narrative that appeals to his base: the idea that trans people are dangerous to them as individuals and, somehow, to our very way of life as Americans.

Donald Trump isn’t trying to make the country safer. Just as a border wall wouldn’t actually stop an influx of drugs or crime, but serves only as a symbol for those who have conflated Central American immigrants to be synonymous with crime, a ban on transgender military personnel wouldn’t benefit the military in any discernible way. In fact, devoting so much time and energy to the former in both cases only makes us less safe. In one instance, Trump shut down the government, weakening the effectiveness of agencies designed to protect Americans. In the other, Trump wants to purge the military of up to thousands of persons willing and able to serve the country.

(image: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.