Trump administration faces two lawsuits for allowing doctors to refuse transgender patients

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A second coalition of LGBTQ organizations has filed a federal suit against the Trump administration over its recent rule change that removed protections for transgender people in health care.

A lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts last week against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) over a rule change it issued last month, arguing that it puts transgender people’s health at risk and discourages people from seeking medical treatment during the global coronavirus pandemic.

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During the Obama administration, HHS said that Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) bans discrimination against transgender people because it bans discrimination “on the basis of sex.”

The Trump administration, however, has taken issue with this interpretation of laws that ban sex-based discrimination. In June, HHS announced that it would no longer interpret Section 1557 as including transgender people.

But just three days after the rule was announced, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that the ban on discrimination “because of sex” in Title VII in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes anti-LGBTQ discrimination when it comes to employment.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” the Court’s decision in Bostock said. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

And just after that ruling, a coalition of organizations sued the Trump administration in a federal court in D.C.

The more recent lawsuit in Massachusetts – which includes the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY) and Equality California as plaintiffs – argues that the Trump administration “issued this rule at a time when, due to the pandemic, individuals in America are facing historic levels of unemployment and economic uncertainty, and the loss of access to healthcare that comes with it.”

“The Rollback Rule represents a stark retreat from HHS’s stated mission ‘to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans’ and the agency’s longstanding history of combating discrimination, protecting patient access to care, and eliminating health disparities,” the lawsuit says.

“In promulgating the Rollback Rule, [HHS] demonstrated animus towards transgender persons, continuing a pervasive pattern by the Trump Administration.”

The lawsuit says that rolling back the Obama era protections violates the Administrative Procedures Act and the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution.

“I have experienced feeling like a doctor doesn’t care if I live or die — which is just shameful,” said Darren Lazor, 35, in a statement. He’s transgender and said that he has experienced discrimination in health care multiple times in his life.

“No one should be denied life-saving health care or be discriminated against the way I have simply because of who they are. I hope that sharing my story can help others understand that transgender people are who we are, and we deserve to be treated fairly under the law.”

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