At the end of a week that included an extraordinary rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts to the president, the White House made clear it wouldn’t be shy about asking the country’s highest court to do its bidding. At a time when the justices are trying to emphasize the independence of the Supreme Court following the bruising confirmation battle of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Trump administration is forcing them to go into thorny political territory yet again. This time, the issue involves the administration’s attempt to ban transgender people from serving in the military. On Friday, the White House asked the Supreme Court to take on the issue even though it is just federal district courts that have entered injunctions against the new policy. Federal appeals court have yet to rule on the measure.
This is hardly the first time the White House has implied the regular order of things shouldn’t apply. The Trump administration has also called on the Supreme Court to rule on its decision to end the DACA program, which protects young immigrants from deportation. It has also demanded justices step in early on a case regarding climate change, and another on a decision to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 census. The Supreme Court typically doesn’t get involved until at least one appeals court has ruled on the issue, but in all these cases the administration has implied the issue was so urgent that the justices could skip that step.
In the ban on trans troops, quick action by the justices is warranted because it has to do with “an issue of imperative public importance: the authority of the U.S. military to determine who may serve in the nation’s armed forces,” Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco wrote. But Peter Renn, an attorney for Lambda Legal, which was one of the groups that challenged the ban, said the “highly unusual step” by the White House is “wildly premature and inappropriate.” For now, trial judges have determined there is no evidence to support the notion that military cohesion or readiness would be affected if transgender people are allowed to serve.