Earlier this month, the Trump administration won a battle in its push to ban transgender individuals from the military, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated a preliminary injunction against the ban. The government had lost in its previous effort to move ahead with the ban in August 2018, when the District Court for the District of Columbia denied a Trump administration motion to “dissolve” the injunction. The original injunction was issued in October, 2017 by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
To seek to dissolve the injunction, the government had the burden of showing “a significant change either in factual conditions or in law” such that continued enforcement of the injunction would be “detrimental to the public interest.” The government argued that there was a significant change due to the updated policy, namely the Mattis Plan, issued on February 22, 2018.
The Court ruled that “the government took substantial steps to cure the procedural deficiencies the court identified in the enjoined 2017 Presidential Memorandum,” and that the Mattis Plan was not a blanket transgender ban. It emphasized that the updated policy “appears to permit some transgender individuals to serve in the military consistent with established military mental health, physical health, and sex-based standards.” The Court also recognized that “‘courts must give great deference to the professional judgment of military authorities concerning the relative importance of a particular military interest,’” Goldman v. Weinberger, 475 U.S. 503, 507 (1986), and that “the Mattis Plan plausibly relies upon the ‘considered professional judgment’ of ‘appropriate military officials.’” Id. at 509-510. It then concluded that “[i]n light of the substantial constitutional arguments and the apparent showing that the policy accommodates at least some of Plaintiffs’ interests, we think that the public interest weighs in favor of dissolving the injunction.”