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Baltimore federal judge orders halt to Trump's proposed transgender military ban

In August, the ACLU sued Trump on behalf of six transgender service members, including Petty Officer 1st Class Brock Stone, an 11-year Navy veteran stationed at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County.

“Anyone can look at my service record and see my service has been honorable and exemplary,” Stone, 34, said outside the Baltimore courtroom Thursday. (Tim Prudente / Baltimore Sun video)

A Baltimore federal judge has halted a proposed transgender military ban, expanding on an initial ruling issued last month against the plan announced by President Donald J. Trump's administration.

In a preliminary injunction issued Tuesday in Baltimore, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled that transgender service members have “demonstrated that they are already suffering harmful consequences” including stigma, threat of discharge and the cancellation or delay of surgeries.

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Trump had announced on Twitter in July that the government would not allow transgender individuals to serve in the military in any capacity. The order was a proposed reinstatement of a longstanding policy that barred transgender people from joining the military and also subjected service members to discharge if they were revealed to be transgender. That policy was changed last year under President Barack Obama.

But in a strongly worded passage from his 53-page decision, Garbis wrote that the “capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified tweet of new policy does not trump the methodical and systematic review by military stakeholders qualified to understand the ramifications of policy change.”

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"We’re equal to the task … and we deserve an equal chance.” Marylanders behind a lawsuit over Trump's military transgender ban are asking a federal judge to stop the roll out

Last month, District of Columbia U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly barred Trump's administration from proceeding with the plans to exclude transgender people from military service. She directed a return to the situation that existed before Trump announced his new policy this summer, saying the administration had provided no solid evidence for implementing a ban.

Lauren Ehrsam, U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman, said officials disagreed with the ruling and they are weighing their next steps in a lawsuit challenging the proposed policy.

“[The] plaintiffs' lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements, as the President ordered, and because none of the plaintiffs have established that they will be impacted by current policies on military service,” Ehrsam said in an email.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in September, cheered Tuesday’s ruling.

“Today is a victory for transgender service members across the country,” senior ACLU staff attorney Joshua Block said in a statement. “We're pleased that the courts have stepped in to ensure that trans service members are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The proposed ban remains unenforceable under the preliminary injunctions.

A Pentagon spokesman, Mark Wright, said the Tuesday ruling Tuesday will have no impact on current Defense Department policy. Wright said the Pentagon is operating on interim guidance issued by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Aug. 25.

“As directed by the DoD guidance, no action may be taken to involuntarily separate or discharge an otherwise qualified service member solely on the basis of a gender dysphoria diagnosis or transgender status,” Wright said.

The Trump administration's transgender ban was also being argued in federal court in Seattle on Tuesday in a case brought by gay rights group Lambda Legal, with a judge grilling a Justice Department lawyer over the president's intent and over how his directive has already affected transgender troops.

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