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Defense Department Cites Combat Effectiveness in Response to Court’s OK of Transgender Ban

'As always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity,' said the DOD

The Department of Defense (DOD) argued on Tuesday that barring transgender individuals from military service is critical to combat effectiveness amid the policy going forward.

The Supreme Court allowed the policy to be implemented for now, while a legal fight against it continues in the lower courts.

The Tuesday decision overturned a lower court injunction that had kept the policy from being implemented. DOD spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said in response that the policy is critical to lethal and combat effectiveness.

“The Department is pleased with the orders issued by the Supreme Court today,” Maxwell said in a statement provided to LifeZette. “We will continue to work with the Department of Justice regarding next steps in the pending lawsuits. As always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity. DOD’s proposed policy is NOT a ban on service by transgender persons.”

Related: Supreme Court Allows Trump’s Transgender Military Ban for Now

Maxwell added that she expects the department to release more information later in the day.

President Donald Trump received backlash when he first proposed the policy change in July 2017. His administration has since tried to implement the policy, but it’s been tied up in the lower courts by four separate lawsuits.

“It is critical that DOD be permitted to implement personnel policies that it determines are necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world,” Maxwell said. “[The department’s] proposed policy is based on professional military judgment and will ensure that the U.S. Armed Forces remain the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world.”

The administration had asked the justices to take the rare step of bypassing the federal appeals courts. But the most recent decision merely allows the ban to go in effect while the legal battle wages on in the lower courts. The GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), a group behind one of the lawsuits, in response called the ban cruel.

“In declining to hear these cases, the Supreme Court saw through the administration’s contrived efforts to gin up a national crisis.” GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the court’s stay of the lower courts’ preliminary orders means that courageous transgender service members will face discharges while challenges to the ban go forward. The Trump administration’s cruel obsession with ridding our military of dedicated and capable service members because they happen to be transgender defies reason and cannot survive legal review.”

Former President Barack Obama officially allowed transgender troops to serve openly when he lifted a longstanding prohibition in June 2016.

Those opposed to reinstating the ban argue it would be an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection clause.

Related: How Trump’s Transgender Military Ban May Help America Preserve Natural Law

But supporters of the ban argue it will help military leaders to avoid adding unnecessary challenges to serving. The Department of Defense released a report last year that provided a detailed explanation as to why the new policy is necessary to further military interests.

It argued the decision to lift the ban posed substantial risks to military readiness.

Chief Justice John Roberts, alongside Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, decided to allow the restrictions to go forward while the legal battle continues.

The ban on transgender individuals’ service in the armed forces did include some exceptions. People are allowed to continue serving if they began transitioning their gender in a reliance on the Obama policy. The Department of Justice Civil Division argued in a legal brief last year the exceptions included almost every plaintiff challenging the ban.

Chief Justice John Roberts, alongside Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, decided to allow the restrictions to go forward while the legal battle continues.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.

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