A federal court has found that denying transgender state employees health insurance coverage for transition-related medical care is unconstitutional and violates federal nondiscrimination law.
The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Wisconsin, and volunteer attorneys from the law firm Hawks Quindel sued the state of Wisconsin on behalf of two employees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who complained after they were denied coverage for transition-related surgical costs, even though their doctors had deemed the surgery “medically necessary” for the purposes of treating their gender dysphoria.
One of the plaintiffs, graduate student Alina Boyden, was forced to forego gender confirmation surgery, while the second, cancer researcher Shannon Andrews, was forced to pay $21,000 in out-of-pocket expenses when she went forward with surgery. Both women claimed that the denial of coverage violated their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and under several other federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Conley, of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, saying that some of the state’s arguments appear “unhinged from reality.”
“As an initial matter, removing the [transgender] Exclusion does not compel surgery, nor any other treatment for gender dysphoria,” Conley wrote. “Again … a portion of transgender individuals do not suffer from gender dysphoria; and for some portion of those individuals who do, gender confirmation surgery and/or hormone therapy will not be a recommended course of treatment.
“[T]he Exclusion implicates sex stereotyping by limiting the availability of medical transitioning, if not rendering it economically infeasible, thus requiring transgender individuals to maintain the physical characteristics of their natal sex,” he continued.
“In other words, the Exclusion entrenches the belief that transgender individuals must preserve the genitalia and other physical attributes of their natal sex over not just personal preference, but specific medical and psychological recommendations to the contrary.
“In this way, defendants’ assertion that the Exclusion does not restrict transgender individuals from living their gender identity is entirely disingenuous, at least for some portion of that population who will suffer from profound and debilitating gender dysphoria without the necessary medical transition.
“Whether because of differential treatment based on natal sex, or because of a form of sex stereotyping where an individual is required effectively to maintain his or her natal sex characteristics, the Exclusion on its face treats transgender individuals differently on the basis of sex, thus triggering the protections of Title VII and the ACA’s antidiscrimination provision,” Conley concluded.
The plaintiffs and their lawyers celebrated the court’s decision.
“I’m pleased the court recognized that denying coverage for my medical care was sex discrimination. I, personally, was lucky to be in a position to have retirement funds and savings I could take out to fund my medical care, but had I been less fortunate I would not be alive today,” Andrews said in a statement. “Today, I feel vindicated the court recognized what the state did was wrong. I hope that this will be a powerful signal that trans people are not fair game for discrimination and that our lives and health are not a political football.”
Last month, Wisconsin’s Group Insurance Board approved health insurance coverage for gender confirmation surgery for state employees starting on Jan. 1, 2019. In 2016, the board had approved coverage for transition-related surgeries starting in January 2017, but voted to reinstate the exclusion in December, just before the policy went into effect. Wednesday’s decision goes further, declaring the exclusion unconstitutional and circumventing any politically-motivated attempts by the insurance board to reverse or backtrack from its current stance.
“As the court found, depriving transgender people of access to transition-related care is sex discrimination,” Larry Dupuis, the legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin, said in a statement. “We will continue our work until all transgender people can get the medical care they need, just like other people can.”
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed a law prohibiting transgender youth at public schools from using bathroom facilities that match their gender identity.
The new law, which takes effect 90 days following the end of this year's legislative session, makes Arkansas the fourth state -- following Alabama, Oklahoma, and Tennessee -- to impose restrictions on transgender students' bathroom use at public schools.
The law applies to multi-user restrooms and locker rooms serving students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
Schools found in violation of the law could be fined up to $1,000 per offense, and the law empowers parents to file private lawsuits if they believe their child has shared a facility with a transgender youth or the school has failed to enforce strict rules ensuring restrooms remain segregated based on biological sex, reports ABC News.
TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney -- who has become the newest favorite punching bag for right-wingers and anti-trans activists -- was beset by attacks on Instagram after posting a note from Vice President Kamala Harris congratulating her on the one-year anniversary of her transition.
Mulvaney rose to prominence on TikTok, where she documented her transition as part of her "Days of Girlhood" series.
Mulvaney has since been afforded multiple opportunities, including taking part in a podcast hosted by cosmetics brand Ulta Beauty and participating in a sit-down interview with President Joe Biden where she questioned him about the proliferation of anti-transgender legislation being pushed in several states.
The mass shooter who killed three children and three staffers at a Nashville Christian school on Monday, March 27, has been identified by police as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, of Nashville, a former student of The Covenant School.
Hale, who identified as transgender, had no previous criminal record, according to Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake. Police say Hale's attack was carefully planned out.
The six victims of the shooting include three nine-year-olds -- Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney -- 61-year-old Cynthia Peak, 61-year-old Mike Hill, and 60-year-old Katherine Koonce, the head of The Covenant School. All were pronounced dead at local area hospitals.
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