The Trump Administration, seeking to delay the enlistment of transgender individuals in the U.S. military when the new year opens, has told a federal trial judge it may go to higher courts in pursuit of a postponement.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Washington, D.C., who had ruled previously that President Trump’s ban on transgender people in the armed forces is probably unconstitutional, set up a possible test of new enlistment opportunities in a new order that she issued on Monday. The order, if left intact by higher courts, means enlistments could begin January 1.
A meeting of lawyers with the judge is set for Tuesday, and that session could determine what happens next in the ongoing court battle over the presidential ban. The Administration has already filed an appeal of the judge’s ruling on the constitutional question, but that appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will not be unfolding immediately.
In the meantime, however, the Trump legal team appears poised to ask that Circuit Court for permission to delay beyond January 1 the scheduled opening of enlistments by transgender applicants. The Pentagon wants added time to study further whether the military forces can handle the arrival in the ranks of perhaps significant numbers of transgender men and women.
On Monday, however, Judge Kollar-Kotelly denied a plea by the Administration to modify her October 30 ruling to grant that additional study time. The judge had ordered the Pentagon to return the policy on transgender enlistments to where it was as of June 30 of this year. As of that date, enlistments for transgender people would open on January 1.
Her new order said simply that any action by the Pentagon or other government agencies to chancge that date is now blocked by the continued application of her October 30 ruling, which was technically a temporary ruling that the ban is likely to be struck down when she issues a final ruling on it later.
Before Monday’s order had come out, the Trump legal team said it would be discussing the timing issue on enlistments at the previously scheduled meeting Tuesday of the judge with lawyers from both sides, to plan how the case is to unfold from this point forward.
If the judge turned down the plea to delay enlistments, government lawyers said last week, they would consider going to the Circuit Court for an emergency order to obtain a postponement of enlistment beyond January 1. With her Monday order, the judge did deny that request, putting the next move up to government lawyers.
In her prior order against the ban, the judge also barred the military from discharging all transgender service members, a policy that had been scheduled to go into effect on March 23.
A second federal judge, in Baltimore, has issued a similar but broader ruling against the ban.