Boost for Trump as court bans transgender people from military

Democrats criticise ruling as shutdown over $5.7bn border wall budget continues

US president Donald Trump’s contentious move to ban transgender people from the military received a boost from the supreme court on Tuesday which ruled the policy could be enforced pending further litigation.

The nine-member court granted a request from the department of justice to allow the government to enforce the ban while various legal challenges to it work their way through lower courts.

The court ruled in favour by five to four, with the four more liberal justices on the bench dissenting.

Mr Trump announced on Twitter in July 2017 that he was reversing the Obama-era decision to remove a ban on transgender people serving in the military.


His announcement at the time took many defence department officials by surprise. The order was subsequently revised to make an exception for hundreds of transgender people who were already members of the military, and those willing to serve “in their biological sex”.

Since then, there have been various legal challenges to the order.

While the supreme court on Tuesday did reject the Trump administration’s request that it immediately hear appeals on lower-court rulings that have blocked the policy, the move to allow the government to enforce the ban is a significant boost for the White House.

Democrats criticised the court's decision. "The administration's ban sends the wrong message to transgender people in our country that they do not have an equal place in our society," said House of Representatives majority leader Steny Hoyer. "This ban not only discriminates; it also denies us the service of talented Americans and makes our country less safe. I will continue to stand up in defence of LGBT Americans to be accepted equally in our country in every way."

Undocumented immigrants

Separately, the court decided not to take up a review of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme (Daca), which grants protection to young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. As a result the case is unlikely to be heard until October at the earliest. Mr Trump had been urging the supreme court to weigh in on the issue.

Various court challenges to the Trump administration's attempt to revoke the deal have left the estimated 800,000 people protected by the scheme in legal limbo. However, in recent days the president has touted the possibility of a three-year extension to Daca as he tries to entice Democrats to back his demand for billions in funding for a border wall with Mexico in a bid to end the month-long government shutdown.

As politicians made their way back to Washington on Tuesday after the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, various efforts were expected this week to try and end the impasse that has left part of the federal government shut since December 22nd.

Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked over Mr Trump’s demand in funding for a border wall, with the Democratic leadership refusing to sign a budget plan that includes $5.7 billion in border wall funding.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is expected to bring legislation to the Senate floor this week which includes Mr Trump's latest offer to extend the Daca programme and a separate immigration programme that was extended to certain African and central American nationals.

But Republicans are unlikely to meet the 60-vote threshold to pass the legislation in the Senate, where they control only 53 seats.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent