WASHINGTON — A sharply divided Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to go ahead with its plan to restrict military service by transgender men and women while court challenges continue.
The high court split 5-4 on Tuesday in issuing orders allowing the plan to take effect for now, with the court's five conservatives greenlighting it and its four liberal members saying they wouldn't have.
Some questions and answers about what the high court did:
Q: What's the impact on transgender men and women currently serving in the military?
A: That depends on the individual's circumstances. In short, though, the justices cleared the way for the Trump administration to require that transgender troops serve as members of their biological gender unless they began a gender transition under less restrictive Obama administration rules.
Until a few years ago service members could be discharged from the military for being transgender. That changed in 2016 when the Obama administration began allowing transgender men and women already serving in the military to undergo gender transition if they were diagnosed with gender dysphoria, distress associated with their biological gender.
The military has said more than 900 men and women have received that diagnosis. They can continue to serve after transitioning.
The Trump administration's policy would essentially freeze that number, however. Once the policy takes effect, currently serving transgender troops who didn't previously step forward and obtain a gender dysphoria diagnosis will have to serve in their biological gender. A 2016 survey estimated that about 1 percent of active-duty service members, about 9,000 men and women, identify as transgender.
Q: What's the impact on transgender men and women not yet in the military but who want to join?
A: Individuals who have transitioned from their biological gender won't be allowed to enlist under the Trump administration's policy. That's a shift. Under previous court orders, transgender individuals had been allowed to enlist in the military since Jan. 1, 2018. Still, advocacy groups had said that process was slow, with only a handful of individuals thought to have completed the process.
Q: What did the Supreme Court say in allowing the Trump administration's policy to take effect for now?
A: Not much. The order from the court was brief and procedural, with no elaboration from the justices.
Q: What happens next?
A: That's up to the Trump administration and courts. While the Trump administration has the go-ahead to implement its policy for now, it's unclear how quickly that will happen. Court challenges will continue, and the cases could eventually get back to the Supreme Court on the merits of the case, whether the Trump administration policy is legal. It's very unlikely, however, that would happen before the Supreme Court recesses for the summer in late June.