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Librarian wins big court victory for transgender health coverage

Transgender flag being waved in a crowd
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A librarian in Alaska won a lawsuit she brought against the state for not covering medical procedures related to her transition.

Jennifer Fletcher is a librarian with the state legislature, and she’s on her state’s health care plan. She tried to get her insurance to cover several expenses related to her transition, but they refused. She was forced to pay thousands of dollars herself that should have been covered by her insurance.

Related: Iowa may soon stop covering transgender care through Medicaid

So, with the help of the organization Lambda Legal, Fletcher sued the state. Alaska doesn’t have a state law that bans discrimination against LGBTQ people. There’s an executive order that bans discrimination against state employees, but it only applies to sexual orientation, not gender identity.

Fletcher argued, though, that her procedures would have been covered by her insurance if they were required for conditions that weren’t gender dysphoria. A cisgender person who needed one of the same procedures for another diagnosis would have been covered.

That means that she was only denied coverage because she’s transgender, which, she argued, violated Title VII. Title VII bans discrimination “because of sex,” and she argued that discrimination against her because she’s transgender is effectively discrimination because of sex.

This argument has worked in other federal court cases and three cases that deal with how the ban on discrimination “because of sex” applies to LGBTQ people are currently before the Supreme Court.

The basic argument is that it’s impossible to discriminate against someone because of their transgender status or sexual orientation without taking their sex into consideration, and, even if it were possible, it would still be discrimination based on “sex stereotypes,” which the Supreme Court has already ruled is a form of sex-based discrimination.

The state of Alaska countered that their policy isn’t based on sex; neither transgender women and transgender men can get procedures related to a transition covered by their insurance.

Effectively, the state argued that it had a right to discriminate against transgender people.

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland agreed with Fletcher, Alaska Public Media reports. The state has not yet said whether it will appeal the decision.

In a statement on Friday, Fletcher said she is fighting for people “like me from having to face these same struggles, from being harmed by being singled out for discriminatory treatment.”

“I hope it will make their lives easier.”

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