Trump administration rule to allow transgender discrimination blocked by federal judge

Donald Trump speaks to a luncheon at the National Press Club
Donald Trump speaks to a luncheon at the National Press Club Photo: Shutterstock

A second federal judge has ordered a temporary injunction against a Trump administration rule that would allow hospitals and insurers to more easily discriminate against transgender people.

Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court in D.C. has issued an injunction against a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule change that would roll back legal guidance from the Obama administration that protected transgender patients. Boasberg ruled that the rule change “would impede the public interest by threatening the health of LGBTQ individuals at large.”

Related: A federal court has ruled that Trump can implement the transgender military ban

This is the second temporary injunction against the rule change. Last month, a federal judge in New York also blocked the rule change, saying that the Trump administration acted “arbitrarily and capriciously in enacting” the anti-transgender rule change despite a Supreme Court ruling that expanded federal protections for LGBTQ people.

“This administration’s health care discrimination rule is just another example of its disdain for LGBTQ lives and the law,” Lambda Legal attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said in a statement about the new injunction issued in the Whitman-Walker Clinic v. HHS lawsuit. “We are gratified that the court in an extensive and detailed decision put key aspects of the disastrous and discriminatory health care rule on hold while our challenge moves forward.”

“The rule is unlawful and endangers people’s lives, plain and simple,” he said.

The issue is Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), which bans discrimination “on the basis of sex.” The Obama administration interpreted that ban as prohibiting hospitals, insurers, and other health care entities from discriminating against transgender people, gender non-conforming people, and people who have had abortions in the past.

For several years, the Trump administration has tried to roll back that interpretation of the law, and in June announced a new rule that defines “discrimination on the basis of sex” as “sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.” This would allow health care entities to more easily claim that treating transgender or gender non-conforming people violates their religious beliefs.

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. The landmark victory could affect how a broad array of anti-discrimination protections apply to LGBTQ people.

HHS faces at least two federal lawsuits against the rule change, and the other lawsuit has already been successful in getting a temporary injunction.

The change is part of a larger Trump administration program of rolling back protections for LGBTQ people enacted in the Obama administration. Last year, several federal judges ruled against a Trump HHS rule that would have allowed health care workers to more easily claim religious exemptions to treating LGBTQ people without being disciplined by their employers.

And other departments – including the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development – have rolled back LGBTQ protections during the Trump administration, allowing more discrimination against homeless transgender people and trans students.

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