Breaking away from the trend of state governments implementing discriminatory legislation aimed at LGBTQ people, on June 16, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed three bills into law that advocates say will make life easier for members of the LGBTQ community.
The first bill, known as the “Gender Affirming Treatment Act,” bans health insurers and insurance coverage providers from applying categorical or blanket exclusions denying coverage for gender-affirming treatments, or classifying such treatments as “cosmetic” — thereby requiring patients to pay for them out of pocket — when a medical provider has deemed them “medically necessary.”
“The legislature finds that these arbitrary assessments of medical necessity are not evidence-based and interfere with the patient-physician relationship,” the bill reads. “”They also place transgender persons who are denied treatment at higher risk of suicide and depression.”
The bill was prompted by efforts by the previous presidential administration and federal judges to whittle away at protections against sex-based discrimination within the Affordable Care Act that had previously been interpreted as applying to the transgender community.
By enshrining protections into state law, any insurance provider who wishes to do business in Hawaii must ensure that gender-affirming treatments for gender dysphoria are covered, especially in cases where similar or identical treatments for cisgender people would otherwise be granted but for a patient’s gender identity.
The ban on medical discrimination is wide-ranging, encompassing medical treatments such as facial feminization surgeries, breast augmentations, vocal training, hormone therapies, and other gender-affirming care.
Ige also signed into law a measure that prohibits juror discrimination based on gender identity or expression. The bill amends Hawaii law to define discrimination based on gender identity or expression as an illegal form of sex-based discrimination, to clarify that prosecutors or defense lawyers may not strike a potential juror from serving simply because they are transgender.
Even with the revision, the law does not explicitly include protections for sexual orientation. However, courts have generally been more amenable to finding that sexual orientation discrimination falls under the category of sex-based discrimination — at least more so than gender identity.
The third bill establishes a “permanent” commission within the state government that directly addresses LGBTQ issues. The commission will consist of 8 voting members appointed by the governor, with one representative from each of the state’s three outlying counties, four from the city and county of Honolulu, and one representative from the Hawaii Sexual and Gender Minority Work Group previously established by the Hawaii Department of Health.
According to the bill, the commission will help “identify the short- and long-range needs of [LGBTQ community] members; and ensure that there is an effective means of researching, planning, and advocating for the equity of this population in all aspects of state government.”
“Collectively, these three bills are critical in supporting the LGBTQ+ members in our communities,” Ige said during the signing ceremony, as reported by HawaiiNewsNow. “They will help us identify social and community issues more effectively and ensure that we can work to prevent discrimination in many areas of our society.”
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