Donald Trump takes bid to restrict transgender troops to US Supreme Court

Trump (right) announced in March that he would endorse a plan by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis (left) to restrict the military service of transgender people who experience a condition called gender dysphoria.
Trump (right) announced in March that he would endorse a plan by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis (left) to restrict the military service of transgender people who experience a condition called gender dysphoria.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - The Trump administration on Friday (Nov 23) asked the Supreme Court to allow it to leapfrog federal appeals courts in several cases concerning the President's decision to bar transgender people from serving in the military.

Federal district courts have entered injunctions against the new policy, but no appeals court has yet ruled on it.

The Supreme Court does not ordinarily intercede until at least one appeals court has considered an issue, and it typically awaits a disagreement among appeals courts before adding a case to its docket.

The Trump administration has, however, repeatedly asked the justices to hear appeals directly from district court rulings, most recently in several cases concerning its attempt to shut down a programme that shields some 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Like the ban on transgender service in the military, that policy has been blocked by federal trial judges.

In both sets of cases, Solicitor-General Noel Francisco told the justices that prompt action was required to ensure that the Supreme Court could rule before its current term ended in June.

The Supreme Court's rules say that it will review a federal trial court's ruling before an appeals court has spoken "only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this court".

In a brief filed on Friday, Mr Francisco said, "This case satisfies that standard."

"It involves," he wrote, "an issue of imperative public importance: the authority of the US military to determine who may serve in the nation's armed forces."

Trial judges have ruled that there is no evidence that service by transgender people threatens military cohesion or readiness.

"There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effective on the military at all," Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the US District Court in Washington wrote last year.

"In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects."

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is set to hear an appeal of her ruling next month.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, has heard arguments in a separate appeal, but has yet to issue a ruling. The 9th Circuit has been the subject of scathing attacks from President Donald Trump in recent days.

The administration has also recently filed unusual requests asking the Supreme Court to block trials in cases concerning climate change and the addition of a question concerning citizenship to the next census.

Critics said the administration's request to bypass ordinary appellate procedures in the transgender cases was presumptuous.

"Today, the US Department of Justice announced its intent to short-circuit established practice, asking the US Supreme Court to review a preliminary district court ruling before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has even had an opportunity to rule," said Mr Peter Renn, a lawyer with Lambda Legal, which represents the challengers in one of the cases Mr Francisco asked the Supreme Court to consider.

"This highly unusual step is wildly premature and inappropriate," Mr Renn said. "Yet again, the Trump administration flouts established norms and procedures. There is no valid reason to jump the line now and seek US Supreme Court review before the appellate courts have even ruled on the preliminary issues before them."