New Lawsuit from Texas Seeks to Block HHS Rule Protecting Transgender Americans in Health CareBy Megan Clayton • August 25, 2016 • 5:20 pm
A new lawsuit filed this week in Texas is attempting to rollback a federal rule meant to protect transgender Americans from health care discrimination.
In May the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a rule under the Affordable Care Act that prohibits denying health care or health coverage to people on the basis of gender identity. While the rule was under consideration some groups had requested broad religious exemptions, which the HHS ultimately decided against.
Now, Texas and four other states—Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky and Kansas—plus three interstate medical and hospital associations are suing HHS, claiming the regulations violate medical providers’ “deeply held religious beliefs.”
Yesterday’s filing of Texas v. US Department of Health & Human Services is the second in a set of cases that seek to roll back the Obama Administration’s attempts to protect transgender people from discrimination.
Shortly before HHS issued its rule the Department of Education (ED) issued an interpretation of Title IX finding that the Education Amendments of 1972 protect against gender identity discrimination. Eleven states—including Texas—subsequently challenged the Department’s interpretation in Texas v. United States. Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge Reed Charles O’Connor of Fort Worth, Texas, granted a preliminary injunction in that case, meaning the Department cannot enforce its interpretation until the federal court has ruled on the matter.
The challenge against the HHS rule was filed in the same district court, and will be ruled on by the same judge. This is not a coincidence, but an intentional legal strategy from opponents of transgender equality. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas is known to be one of the most conservative in the country, and Judge O’Connor has been traditionally unsympathetic to the sort of federal interpretation that is in question in this case.
However, it’s important to understand that federal guidelines protecting transgender people from discrimination are rooted in legal precedent. Furthermore, they are federal agencies’ attempt to anticipate clear legal trends in applying non-discrimination protections to LGBT people. But because of lawsuits from a few lawmakers who are determined to block equality at every turn, transgender Americans will continue to be placed in the middle of this fight, attacked and singled out for being who they are.