Kansas City's Transgender Veterans Celebrate Court's Decision To Block Part Of Trump's Military Ban

Oct 30, 2017

Retired Army Colonel Suzanne Wheeler, who is transgender, pulls out a ceremonial sword — one of the many items of military memorabilia she has from her 32 years in the service.
Credit HuffPost

A federal judge on Monday partially blocked President Trump's ban on transgender recruits to the military.

In a 76-page opinion Monday, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia said parts of the president's ban are not supported by the evidence.

The judge's opinion reinstates Obama-era policy toward transgender service men and women, which lifted long-standing restrictions. For decades, the military identified gender non-conformity as a mental illness.  

The judge wrote that her ruling was based, among other things, on “the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, (and) the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts.”

The judge let stand the part of the president's ban that barred military funding of gender reassignment surgery. 

In denying the plaintiffs request to lift this restriction, the judge wrote, "No Plaintiff has established a likelihood of being impacted by that prohibition (and so) the Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate the propriety of this directive."

Suzanne Wheeler, a retired colonel with the Army who is transgender, has done tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places. She testified in Congress against the military ban.

Wheeler says Monday’s decision will resonate with the many transgender enlistees and trainees at posts around the region.

“There are students in Fort Leavenworth, young men and women at Fort Leonard Wood, those serving at Fort Riley, Whiteman and McConnell are all enormously touched and impacted by this decision," Wheeler says.

A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found there could be as many as 15,000 transgender people who’ve served in the military with more than 8,000 on active duty.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter and producer. You can reach her on twitter @laurazig or email lauraz@kcur.org