The Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C., on September 25, 2018. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Supreme Court says Trump administration can ban military service by transgender people while legal challenges continue

The Trump administration can move forward with plans to restrict transgender people from serving in the military following a ruling Tuesday by the Supreme Court.

The high court split 5-4 in allowing the plan to take effect while legal challenges continue, but declined to take up cases related to the matter directly.

Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter lifted the ban on transgender people serving openly in 2016. The Pentagon at the time commissioned a report by the RAND Corporation studying the consequences of the ruling and eventually set July 2017 as the month that transgender people would be allowed to openly enlist in the armed services.

President Trump, however, directed the Pentagon to ignore the policy changes made during the Obama administration and tweeted in July 2017 that the government would not allow “Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

Several groups representing transgender individuals sued. The Trump administration lost early rounds in those cases, with courts issuing nationwide injunctions barring the administration from altering course before the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to take a look.

On Tuesday, the high court lifted those preliminary injunctions.

In March 2018, the Trump administration announced that after studying the issue it was revising its hardline stance.

A new policy unveiled last year 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 over 900 men and women have done so.

RAND estimated in 2016 that between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender service members were on active duty.

Gov. Cuomo blasted the court’s decision to allow the ban to move forward.

“The Supreme Court has greenlit an abhorrent policy that not only endorses discrimination in our armed forces, but also undermines national security by blocking talented and dedicated people from serving their country,” Cuomo said in a statement. “President Trump’s disgraceful ban on most transgender troops serving in the military repays service and sacrifice with hate and it takes our military backward by undercutting this nation’s commitment to ensuring equal rights for all.”

-By Denis Slattery, New York Daily News

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