feature photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera via the Texas Tribune
Texas is back at it again filing lawsuits left and right against the Obama administration and wasting my good ‘ole tax-payer money— spending more than $5.9 million on 43 cases since Obama took office in 2009 to be exact. This time Texas along with Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky, Kansas, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) and the Franciscan Alliance — a network of religious hospitals — filed a lawsuit claiming a federal nondiscrimination rule on health care forces doctors to act against their religious beliefs.
The complaint challenges regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services that prohibits discrimination against transgender patients. The rule ensures transgender people get equal treatment by insurers and medical providers which “prohibits denying or limiting coverage for transgender individuals, including health services related to gender transition.” It applies to hospitals and doctors that accept federal funding and insurance plans offered through the federal marketplace.
The five states, the CMDA and the Franciscan Alliance argue the federal regulation redefines the term “sex,” “forces healthcare professionals to violate their medical judgment,” and violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act by forcing religiously affiliated health organizations to violate their religious beliefs. In other words, they think providing services for transition-related care or providing insurance for transition-related health care violates their religious beliefs.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, the same judge who sided with Texas and 12 other states on Monday and temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s directive to accommodate transgender students. The guidelines stated that Title IX’s nondiscrimination protections on the basis of “sex” also protect trans students from discrimination which allows them equal access to school programs and activities and let’s them use bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance to their gender. O’Connor issued an injunction that said federal officials didn’t follow proper procedures when creating the directives.
The scope of O’Connor’s order is vast. It dictates that the federal government can not intervene on behalf of trans students in any school nationwide. If the departments were already investigating claims of anti-trans discrimination, they must suspend those investigations immediately. In other words, so long as this injunction is in place, it’s as if the guidance protecting trans students doesn’t exist at all. It doesn’t, however, prevent schools from continuing to follow the guidance.
The Obama administration is expected to immediately appeal this decision.
As for the lawsuit against nondiscrimination in health care, it could have even greater consequences for trans people. This case has the possibility of setting a dangerous precedent of legally denying trans people their basic human right to medically necessary treatment and health care.