A federal court in Washington, DC, on Monday blocked President Donald Trump from instituting key components of his ban on transgender military service.
The decision comes after trans service members filed a lawsuit against the ban, arguing that it has “already resulted in immediate, concrete injury to Plaintiffs by unsettling and destabilizing plaintiffs’ reasonable expectation of continued service.” US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly argued that the trans service members are likely to win and stopped parts of Trump’s ban from taking effect, according to the Associated Press.
As a result, openly trans troops may be able to join the military starting in 2018. The decision won’t force the US military to pay for gender-affirming surgeries, although interim policy by Secretary of Defense James Mattis already puts the military on the tab for those medical expenses, Dominic Holden reported for BuzzFeed.
In July, Trump tweeted that he would ban trans military service. He argued, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” (The research, based on the experiences of other countries, shows that the costs associated with trans service members are actually very small.)
Then in August, the White House put out the actual policy behind those tweets. According to the administration, Trump would effectively return to the pre-2016 era in which trans troops could not serve openly. The policy also banned the military from paying for gender-affirming surgery, with some exceptions to “protect the health” of someone who had already begun transitioning.
But the guidance also allowed the secretary of defense, after consulting with the secretary of homeland security, some wiggle room to decide what to do with already serving trans service members — and it let them advise the president on reversing the ban.
The ban was to take effect in March 2018. With Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling, the chances of that happening are diminished — although the federal government is likely to appeal the decision.
For more on Trump’s ban on trans troops, read Vox’s explainer.