LGBTQ groups sue Trump administration over rule removing protections for transgender people in health care

©New York Daily News

Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America/TNS

LGBTQ rights groups are suing the Trump administration over its plan to roll back anti-discrimination protections for transgender people in health care.

On June 12 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service announced that it would erase Obamacare-era protections for transgender patients against discrimination by health care providers, hospitals and health insurance companies.

The announcement — made on the fourth anniversary of the tragedy at Pulse, the Orlando, Florida, gay nightclub where 50 people died after a man opened fire during a party — aims to narrow the legal definition of “sex discrimination” so it doesn’t include discrimination to transgender people.

On Monday, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of LGBTQ organizations — including the Washington, D.C.-based LGBTQ clinic Whitman-Walker Health, the TransLatin@ Coalition and the Los Angeles LGBT Center — seeking to block the HHS “effort to gut protections for LGBTQ patients.”

Lambda Legal is a civil rights organization that advocates for the legal rights of LGBTQ people.

“While HHS’s health care discrimination rule cannot change the law, it creates chaos and confusion where there was once clarity about the right of everyone in our communities, and specifically transgender people, to receive health care free of discrimination,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney and health care strategist for the organization, said in a statement.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, comes a week after a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which barred discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace.

In a surprising 6-3 decision, the Justices found that “sex discrimination” does protect people who are fired or discriminated against at work for being LGBTQ.

In 2016 the Obama administration finalized the implementation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity, transgender status, or sex stereotypes as forms of sex discrimination.

In 2019 the Trump White House announced plans to roll back the Obama-era protections. Earlier this month, it finalized and published the rule, which is set to go in effect on Aug. 28.

“Health care systems should be safe places for everyone to seek care; where people’s identities are affirmed, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, national origin, or other characteristics,” Naseema Shafi, the CEO of Whitman-Walker Health, said.

Lambda Legal’s Gonzalez-Pagan called the HHS actions “wrong, callous, immoral and legally indefensible,” adding that the agency for years has been used by the Trump administration “as a weapon to target and hurt vulnerable communities who already experience alarming rates of discrimination when seeking care, even now, during a global pandemic.”

———

©2020 New York Daily News