A retired transgender employee of a county in upstate New York is suing the county for denying him health insurance coverage for his transition-related care.
Sean Simonson, a former case worker for the Oswego Department of Social Services for nearly 30 years, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in February 2015, after which he began taking steps to transition, including legally changing his name. As part of his doctor-recommended treatment for gender dysphoria, Simsonson was to be placed on hormone replacement therapy and receive a double mastectomy.
However, Simonson was denied coverage because of a discriminatory exclusion in his county-provided health insurance plan that prohibits money from being used for treatments like hormones or gender confirmation surgery. Simonson and his doctor appealed to the insurance company, and eventually filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC subsequently issued a determination in June finding reasonable cause to believe that Oswego County and the Oswego Department of Social Services had discriminated against Simonson “due to his sex (transgender status/gender identity) in violation of Title VII.” Lambda Legal, on behalf of Simonson, notified the New York Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, which launched an investigation into the case.
In November, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a settlement with Oswego County to ensure that transgender employees and retirees have access to medically necessary health care coverage through their employer-sponsored health plan. As part of that settlement, Oswego County has agreed to eliminate the exclusion of transition-related care from the health plan, extend a new benefit covering transition-related care for county employees and retirees, and provide annual training for county employees and employees of its benefits administrator concerning the new benefit.
Unfortunately, the agreement does not include compensation for current and former employees who have already been denied coverage under the old policy. As a result, Simonson and his lawyers from Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit to recoup some of the out-of-pocket costs he was forced to bear.
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, alleges that the county’s policy and the resulting denial of insurance coverage constitutes sex discrimination and violates federal and state laws, including the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a portion of the Affordable Care Act, and New York’s nondiscrimination law.
“For years, Oswego County failed to comply with its legal obligation to treat its transgender employees with dignity and without bias. While Oswego County has finally rescinded its discriminatory policy, it simply is not enough to make up for the years of suffering Sean endured and the thousands of dollars he paid out-of-pocket from retirement savings because the County discriminated against him,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a staff attorney and health care strategist at Lambda Legal said in a statement. “Oswego County needs to acknowledge and remedy the damage that has been done.
“Everyone should have access to health insurance that makes medical care affordable and accessible, especially when it has been promised as part of our employment compensation,” Gonzalez-Pagan added. “Unfortunately, transgender employees of Oswego County have been denied this right and instead been consigned to second-class-citizen status. Through this case we look to make it clear that such discriminatory treatment has consequences and can’t be tolerated.”
By Rudy Malcom on October 4, 2021
Olympia High School in Orlando, Fla., has crowned its first transgender homecoming queen.
Evan Bialosuknia, a 17-year-old senior, ran her campaign on social media with help from the school's Gay-Straight Alliance.
“Every year, a beautiful girl wins homecoming queen, and that’s how it always is,” told CBS News. “Ever since I was little, I was like, ‘I want to be a queen, I want to be that star in a moment of glory.’”
Last week, Bialosuknia “made history,” as she wrote on Instagram, joining an increasing number of LGBTQ students across the country joining homecoming courts and prom royalty.
EV PAC, Equality Virginia's political action committee, announced on Thursday that it will donate $50,000 to the Virginia House of Delegates' Democratic Caucus ahead of the upcoming November election.
On Nov. 2, Virginia voters will elect a new governor and lieutenant governor, decide whether to re-elect Attorney General Mark Herring (D), and pick a delegate, in each of the state's 100 house districts, to represent them in Richmond.
Since Democrats won control of the House of Delegates and the Senate -- and already occupied the governor's mansion -- in the 2019 elections, Virginia has passed a wave of pro-equality legislation, including the Virginia Values Act, a comprehensive nondiscrimination law; a ban on conversion therapy; changes that allow transgender people to change their names and gender markers on state IDs; protections for LGBTQ students in schools; a bill modernizing the commonwealth's HIV laws; and a ban on defendants utilizing the LGBTQ "panic" defense to justify more lenient sentences for violent crimes.
Republicans in Texas have voted to advance a bill seeking to bar transgender students from competing on sports teams matching their gender identity, setting it up for a vote in the House of Representatives.
The Texas House Select Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies -- which was created by Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) to address prioritized bills during what is now the third special session called since the regular legislative session ended -- approved the anti-transgender bill, HB 25, on an 8-4 vote on Wednesday.
The bill's passage marks the first time legislation of its type has managed to move to the next step in the legislative process. Similar bills, introduced during the regular and two previous special sessions, failed to advance out of the House Public Education Committee earlier this year.
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