WASHINGTON – A federal court has knocked down the Trump administration’s latest request to delay any transgender recruits from enlisting in the military as of Jan. 1, 2018.

In the Monday ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the Justice Department’s argument that the Pentagon did not have sufficient time to prepare to receive transgender recruits lacked merit, citing the amount of time that had passed from the initial ruling in October and their last-minute appeal to prevent the enlistments from occurring.

“If complying with the military’s previously established January 1, 2018, deadline to begin accession was as unmanageable as Defendants now suggest, one would have expected Defendants to act with more alacrity,” the judge wrote.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly also cited some of the things DoD has put in place to be ready to openly accept transgender recruits, including training more than 250 medical personnel at military entrance processing stations and has published a handbook, “Transgender Service in the U.S. Military,” to guide commanders, trainers and fellow enlistees.

The Pentagon has been operating for weeks, based on previous court rulings, on the assumption that enlistments will begin Jan. 1.

“In accordance with the November 28 D.C. Federal court ruling, DoD is planning to prepare to assess transgender persons into the military effective 1 January,” said Pentagon spokesman Army Maj. Dave Eastburn.

The decision to allow transgender service members to serve openly and join the military was announced in 2016 under former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. President Donald Trump has worked to reverse that policy since July, when he announced in a series of tweets that transgender personnel would not be allowed to serve.

The White House said it is looking at options to keep fighting the Jan. 1 deadline, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Monday.

“As of right now, they’re [the Pentagon] simply complying with a court order and preparing to implement a previous policy to remain in compliance. The Department of Justice is currently reviewing the legal options to ensure that the president’s directive can be implemented,” Sanders said.

The Trump administration could still file another appeal to a higher court to delay the deadline, a move critics challenged Monday.

“It’s time to stop stalling and move forward,” said Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi. “This administration needs to stop creating fake problems and get on with it.”

The Department of Justice is now asking a federal appeals court to intervene and put the Jan. 1 requirement on hold. A federal judge in Washington state also blocked the transgender ban on Monday.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.

Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."

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