Transgender rights activists protest at the White House in Washington, D.C., on October 22. A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the Trump administration's ban on transgender troops. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 4 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court sided with the Trump administration Friday by overturning a lower court that blocked a ban on transgender people serving in the military.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's ruling overturns one of four federal courts that blocked the administration's policy.
The panel said Friday the ban shouldn't have been blocked by the lower court while it was being challenged through the court system. Despite the ruling, though, the policy will remain blocked due to injunctions in the three other cases.
Trump introduced the policy in July 2017 on Twitter, followed by an official statement from former Secretary of Defense James Mattis. The Department of Defense said individuals who have gender dysphoria could not serve in the military, with some exceptions. Trump defended the decision, citing "tremendous medical costs and disruption."
The announcement faced immediate backlash from civil rights organizations, which said it violated the Constitution's equal protection clause and would constitute discrimination.
In a memo issued in March, Trump updated the language to allow transgender troops already serving to remain in their ranks, but noted they could be made to serve according to the gender listed on their birth certificate.
The D.C. appeals court said it sided with the Trump administration because it was no longer a "blanket ban" on transgender people.
"The government took substantial steps to cure the procedural deficiencies the court identified in the enjoined 2017 presidential memorandum," the judges wrote in Friday's ruling.
"Although today's decision is not a final determination on the merits, we must recognize that the Mattis Plan plausibly relies upon the 'considered professional judgment' of 'appropriate military officials' ... and appears to permit some transgender individuals to serve in the military consistent with established military mental health, physical health, and sex-based standards."
Between 4,000 and 10,000 U.S. active-duty and reserve service members are transgender, and were allowed to serve in the military following a policy change under the Obama administration.