The Pentagon said it would not implement any changes to its transgender policy for now, despite a Supreme Court ruling Tuesday that upheld the Defense Department’s limits on which transgender personnel may be allowed to serve.
In the 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that the Trump administration may move forward with a ban on transgender service members who experience gender dysphoria, or who have transitioned to their preferred sex, from serving in the military. Four lower court cases continue to be heard.
President Donald Trump had requested that the Supreme Court take up the issue this term, effectively hearing the case before the lower courts ruled, which the Supreme Court declined to do.
Because there is still an injunction in place in a federal case in Maryland that is challenging the ban, no changes would be made to DoD’s policy for now, a defense official said.
“There is still one national injunction in place, so nothing would change today,” the defense official said.
Pentagon spokeswoman Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason said the Pentagon would “continue to work with the Department of Justice regarding next steps in the pending lawsuits. As always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity.”
Until a few years ago service members could be discharged from the military for being transgender. That changed under President Barack Obama. The military announced in 2016 that transgender individuals already serving in the military would be allowed to serve openly. And the military set July 1, 2017 as the date when transgender individuals would be allowed to enlist.
After President Donald Trump took office, the administration delayed the enlistment date, saying the issue needed further study. While that study was ongoing, the president tweeted in late July 2017 that the government would not allow “Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
He later directed the military to return to its policy before the Obama administration changes.
Groups representing transgender individuals sued, and the Trump administration lost early rounds in those cases, with courts issuing nationwide injunctions barring the administration from altering course.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday lifted those preliminary injunctions.
In March 2018, the Trump administration announced that after studying the issue it was revising its policy. The new policy generally bars transgender individuals from serving unless they serve "in their biological sex" and do not seek to undergo a gender transition.
The policy has an exception for transgender troops who relied on the Obama-era rules to begin the process of changing their gender, allowing them to continue to serve. The military said last year that more than 900 men and women have done so.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."