News (USA)

A county spent $1.2 million in legal fees to deny a trans employee health care. They just lost.

Sgt. Anna Lange
Sgt. Anna Lange Photo: Screenshot/Houston County 911

A federal appeals court sided with a transgender deputy who was denied equal medical care when the Houston County, Georgia Sheriff’s Office refused to cover her gender-affirming care under their health insurance. This comes after the county spent $1.2 dollars in legal fees to avoid paying for the deputy’s $10,000 surgery.

Represented by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), Sgt. Anna Lange began her lawsuit back in 2019 after her employer denied her gender-affirming care, despite having worked for the Sheriff’s Office since 2006.

“Today’s victory is a win not just for me, but for all transgender Southerners who deserve equal access to life-saving transition-related care,” said Lange in a TLDEF press release. 

“I have proudly served my community for decades and it has been deeply painful to have the county fight tooth and nail, redirecting valuable resources toward denying me basic health care — health care that the courts and a jury of my peers have already agreed I deserve. I’m pleased to see that yet another court has deemed those efforts to be unfair and illegal.”

In 2022, a federal judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia ruled that Lange had been discriminated against, citing the Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County as legal precedent.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit just ruled 2-1 in her favor. The judges also cited Bostock v. Clayton County in defending Lange.

“Today’s historic victory is the first decision by a federal appellate court affirming that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against transgender people in an employee health plan. It is immediately binding on employers in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama,” said TLDEF in their press release.

“Because transgender persons are the only (insurance) plan participants who qualify for gender-affirming surgery, the (county’s) plan denies health care coverage based on transgender status,” said the court in its decision. 

“Houston County deprived Lange of a benefit or privilege of her employment by reason of her nonconforming traits, thereby unlawfully punishing her for her gender nonconformity.”

In his dissent, Judge Andrew Brasher wrote, “On the face of this policy, it doesn’t treat anyone differently based on sex, gender nonconformity, or transgender status. Assuming Lange is factually correct that only transgender people would want sex change surgery, that doesn’t mean the plan discriminates because of sex.”

TLDEF Co-Interim Legal Director Gabriel Arkles said in their press release, “Houston County and Sheriff (Cullen) Talton have once again lost in court, after spending some $2 million on lawyers to try to deprive Sergeant Lange of medically necessary care that costs orders of magnitude less solely to discriminate against transgender people.”

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