If barring an estimated 13,700 transgender troops from service is justified, the Pentagon will need to prove it. On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered the Department of Defense to turn over 35,000 documents theTrump administration used in drafting its transgender military ban.
Queer advocates are hailing the ruling as a win in the prolonged dispute between the administration and LGBTQ rights groups. Lambda Legal and the Modern Military Association of American (MMAA) are seeking the documents in their lawsuit over the ban, which they claim was implemented without any sound policy.
The Trump administration has argued that the documents should be withheld for national security. In her order on Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman said that the documents were necessary to understanding the justification for the ban.
“Defendants will either produce the complaints or inform the Plaintiffs that there are no remaining complaints to produce,” she wrote.
“There is no cloak big enough to hide the deficiencies of the Pentagon’s rushed plan, which was cobbled together after-the-fact to backfill a justification for President Trump’s arbitrary tweets,” Lambda Legal attorney Peter Renn in a statement. “We look forward to having our day in court when we can prove at trial why this ban remains rank discrimination that cannot stand. This ruling brings us one step closer to that day.”
BREAKING NEWS in our lawsuit alongside @LambdaLegal against Trump's unconscionable #TransMilitaryBan. We're proud to be representing trans military members, qualified trans patriots who want to serve, @HRC & @GenderJusticeWA in court. #SupportTransTroops https://t.co/fj1mTNtL8s
— Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) (@LGBTQ_Military) December 18, 2019
The documents won’t be made public yet. The order makes them available to attorneys only.
The ban, which went into effect in April, bars troops who need hormone therapy, gender affirming surgery or won’t serve in their sex assigned at birth. People who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria can’t enter the service under the rule.
The Trump administration has argued that the ban saves the military money on transgender health care. The Pentagon reported that transgender care cost the department just $8 million since 2016. The military operates with an annual health budget of over $50 billion.