Hours before President Donald Trump's revised executive order on immigration and refugees was set to take effect, it was blocked by a federal court.
In a ruling filed in U.S. District Court in Hawaii Wednesday evening, Judge Derrick Watson wrote that the order should be shelved because those challenging it are likely to succeed in arguing that it amounts to unconstitutional religious discrimination.
Then on Thursday morning, a federal judge in Maryland granted a preliminary injunction against Trump's order, prohibiting that the 90-day ban against travelers from six Muslim-majority countries be enforced, NPR reports.
The executive order would temporarily ban all refugees and immigrants from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S.
The White House named the order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States." President Trump signed it on March 6 after an earlier version of the order was similarly blocked by courts.
Arguments over religious discrimination
Justice Department lawyers who defended the executive order said the six countries the 90-day immigration ban applies to were chosen because of concerns about terrorism, not because of religion.
They noted that it applies to people of any religion from those countries (Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Iran, and Libya) and said most Muslims in the world are not affected by it.
Judge Watson was unconvinced, writing that the order can still be anti-Muslim, even if it doesn't target all of the world's Muslims.
Watson found it significant that as a candidate for president, Trump had called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. The ruling says those statements by Trump "betray the executive order's stated secular purpose."
Trump calls it 'overreach'
The ruling was issued just before President Trump took the stage at a rally in Nashville Wednesday evening.
He told supporters the ruling in Hawaii was "unprecedented judicial overreach," Time reports, adding: "We're going to fight this terrible ruling, we're going to take our case as far it needs to go in the Supreme Court."
Hawaii was the first state to challenge the revised travel ban but judges in Maryland and Washington state were considering similar cases, the Wall Street Journal reports. Minnesota joined Washington in a court challenge to Trump's previous executive order on immigration.