WASHINGTON - The Trump administration can restrict military service by transgender men and women, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, even as lower court challenges to the policy change continue.
The ruling allows the Pentagon to bar enlistment by people who have undergone a gender transition. It also allows officials to require military personnel serve as members of their biological gender, unless they have started a gender transition under the less restrictive rules defined by President Barack Obama's administration.
Obama ended a ban on transgender people serving in the military, allowing them to enlist and serve openly.
The Pentagon said Wednesday it "remains bound" by another court order that "requires continued implementation" of an Obama administration policy that allows transgender people to openly serve in the U.S. military.
The Pentagon added it would consult with the U.S. Justice Department "on next steps in the litigation” and continue to “press our case in the courts.”
The Trump administration has been trying to change those rules for some time. Officials also tried to get the court to take up cases on transgender policy right away, but the justices declined for the time being.
Trump sought to limit the service of transgender people to those who are not seeking to undergo gender transitions. The rules apply to those joining or staying in the military.
Civil Rights lawsuit
Civil rights and transgender rights groups sued in 2017 to overturn the restrictions. The Trump administration said the restrictions are necessary because of the "tremendous medical costs and disruption" of having transgender military personnel.
Until Tuesday, federal courts had blocked the administration's policy, finding that it likely violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.
Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.