Some of the nation’s top LGBTQ rights organizations are fighting back against a rollback of an Obama-era regulation that strips LGBTQ people—especially those who are trans—of protection from health care discrimination. In response to the June 12 rule change, a coalition of LGBTQ clinics and organizations filed a lawsuit Monday (June 22) against the Trump administration.
The challenge, which was brought by a number of LGBTQ health care providers and advocacy groups, comes a little over a week after the Department of Health and Human Services announced it was erasing some provisions of a 2016 rule that interpreted the Affordable Care Act’s ban on sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of gender identity, saying it would enforce the ban "according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology."
The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs include Whitman-Walker Health, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, LGBTQ physicians, health care provider associations and LGBTQ organizations such as the TransLatin@ Coalition. They are represented by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and Steptoe & Johnson.
"Everyone deserves easy access to health care, and health care that is respectful of who we are," Bamby Salcedo, president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, said in a statement. She added it will most seriously impact "those of us who are transgender, non-English speakers, immigrants, people of color and people living with disabilities, and will have an even more serious impact on those of us who hold intersectional identities."
Salcedo of the TransLatin@ Coalition said the Trump rule gives health care providers "the green light" to discriminate. She said for transgender people, discrimination can start in the receptionist’s office, when they hand over an ID that shows a name and gender that conflicts with how they present themselves. "Even those of us who are lucky to get through the reception and get to see a doctor, we often encounter that the doctor tells us, ‘I don’t treat people like you.’ "
The rule came just three days before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a landmark decision that says LGBTQ people are protected under the 1964 Civil Rights Act against employment discrimination. While technically unrelated to the health care regulation, NPR reports that legal experts believe the SCOTUS ruling may make challenges to the rule more likely to succeed.
"It certainly is wind in our sails," Lambda Legal senior attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan told NPR. "There’s no doubt that the analysis that [the Trump administration] deployed is inconsistent with the final ruling of the Supreme Court in the employment cases, and it further undermines any rationale that they had."
Unless rescinded or blocked by a judge, the new rule will go into effect in August.