Second federal judge halts Trump administration’s proposed transgender military ban

A second federal judge has halted the Trump administration's proposed transgender military ban, finding that active-duty service members are "already suffering harmful consequences" because of the president's policy.

The ruling Tuesday from U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis in the Maryland case comes just weeks after another judge in Washington blocked the administration's proposal that would have stopped military recruitment of transgender men and women and possibly forced the dismissal of current service members starting in March.

The preliminary injunction issued by the judge in Baltimore on Tuesday goes further than the earlier ruling by also preventing the administration from denying funding for certain medical care.

In his 53-page order, Garbis said the transgender service members challenging the ban have "demonstrated that they are already suffering harmful consequences such as the cancellation and postponements of surgeries, the stigma of being set apart as inherently unfit, facing the prospect of discharge and inability to commission as an officer, the inability to move forward with long-term medical plans, and the threat to their prospects of obtaining long-term assignments."

In July, President Donald Trump surprised military leaders and members of Congress when he announced the proposal in a series of tweets. The challenge from six active-duty service members in Maryland was filed days after Trump issued a formal order reversing an Obama-era policy allowing transgender men and women to serve openly and to receive funding for sex-reassignment surgery.

Justice Department lawyers told the court this month that the lawsuit was premature because the policy is on hold pending a review by the Defense Department. No decisions have been made, government lawyers said, about whether to discharge active-duty service members solely because they are transgender.

Even though U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington had already put the broad outlines of the proposal on hold, her October decision did not explicitly rule on whether the administration could stop paying for sex-reassignment surgeries.

Lawyers in the Maryland case told Garbis that two plaintiffs are actively trying to schedule transition-related surgical care and will not be able to receive surgery before the policy's March start date.

Estimates vary widely about the number of transgender military members.

One recent study by the Rand Corp. put the number on active duty at about 2,500, while another from the Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law estimated that there were 15,500 on active duty, in the National Guard and in the reserves. Eighteen other countries allow transgender troops to serve.