ACLU of Texas Enters the Fight for Transgender Healthcare Services

The Affordable Care Act states that healthcare entities are not allowed to deny or limit services – including gender transition services – based on race, national origin, sex, age or disability.

By Laura RiceSeptember 19, 2016 11:54 am|

The ACLU and ACLU of Texas are getting involved in a lawsuit over a regulation in the Affordable Care Act. In August, Texas filed a lawsuit against federal regulations that prohibit healthcare discrimination against people who are transgender. The lawsuit was announced by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the Franciscan Alliance. The lawsuit will be heard in Wichita Falls.

The rules state that healthcare entities are not allowed to deny or limit services – including gender transition services – based on race, national origin, sex, age or disability.

But the State of Texas, along with four other states, says the regulation in would force doctors to perform medical procedures to change the gender of children.

The ACLU says the lawsuit would have the larger implication of allowing providers to use religion to deny medical care.

Josh Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT project, says the lawsuit echoes the recent attempt to strike down guidance from the U.S. Department of Education to allow public school students to use the bathroom that is in line with their gender identity.

Block says the ACLU got involved because no one else had intervened to represent the interest of the people who are being discriminated against.

“It’s really crucial that the people who are being discriminated against have a voice in that courtroom to explain why the law is so necessary,” he says.

Block says the ACA protections under “sex” extend to gender identity, as most courts interpret the law.

“The courts – including the fifth circuit – which is the most conservative court of appeals in the country, have all recognized that sex discrimination also includes discrimination against someone for failing to conform to someone’s image of what man or woman should be,” Block says.

That is exactly the type of discrimination that’s at work if a person is turned away from medical care because they are transgender.

“I think what you really have here is just opposition to the very concept of protecting trans people,” Block says, “Not actually a real opposition to the formality of how these rules have been issued.”

Individual doctors and hospitals are saying they should not be required to perform gender transition procedures because they violate their religious beliefs. Block says the regulations aren’t targeted at individual doctors; instead, they require the medical institution to follow the rules.

“They don’t require anyone to perform any surgery or give any treatment that the doctor doesn’t want to,” Block says. “The obligations are on the entity that’s employing the doctors. The burden isn’t on anyone’s individual conscience – this is an organization that is claiming the right to have federal funds to provide healthcare to the general public but then discriminate based on their religious beliefs.”

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.