These LGBTQ Organizations Are Suing the Trump Administration To Preserve Transgender Healthcare Protections

Supermajority Education Fund

June 25, 2020

On June 22, the civil rights organization Lambda Legal and several other LGBTQ organizations filed a lawsuit to prevent the rollback of protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) intended to prevent healthcare-based discrimination against transgender people. The rolled back protections of the ACA, Section 1557, had prohibited discrimination based on gender identity, transgender status, or gender presentation as forms of sex discrimination since 2016. 

The Department of Health and Human Services finalized the rule change, which is set to go into effect in mid-August, on June 12, after first announcing in May 2019 that it was proposing a rollback of the protections provided by Section 1557. The new HHS rule “creates a lot of confusion and invites discrimination for LGBTQ people and particularly transgender people,” seeking to access healthcare, Lambda Legal’s Senior Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan told Supermajority News. Because the transgender mandate provided “clear guidance for healthcare providers, the healthcare industry and to patients,” a rollback would leave transgender patients particularly vulnerable to healthcare-related discrimination.

Gonzalez-Pagan added that in addition to creating confusion that could discourage transgender patients from seeking care, the new rule “is in defiance of already clear rules and the clear guidance from the Supreme Court just last week.” In a landmark 6-3 decision, the Court ruled earlier this month that LGBTQ Americans were protected under federal employment discrimination laws. 

While the Supreme Court decision “eliminates in large part the justification for part of the rollback, that is only one aspect of what [HHS] tried to do with this rule,” said Gonzalez-Pagan. He notes the implementation of the rollback would also leave patients with limited English proficiency and people of color particularly vulnerable. “People who may suffer from intersectional discrimination — for example, they are Black and transgender, or they only speak Spanish and they are gay would make claims of discrimination even harder” because the new rule would eliminate the remedies provided to people who bring discrimination claims, he said.

The fact that the rule is being implemented in the middle of a public health emergency is particularly concerning to Gonzalez-Pagan. “If you fear discrimination, you will be less likely to go to a doctor when you are sick,” he noted. “It’s no secret that transgender people face disproportionate amounts of discrimination in healthcare compared to other portions of the population.”