As the new year began, LGBT groups denounced a decision by a federal judge in Texas that blocked, nationwide, federal regulations issued under the Affordable Care Act that barred discrimination against transgendered patients.
As the Washington Times reported, “U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor is the same judge who, four months earlier, blocked President Obama’s order compelling public schools nationwide to permit bathroom and locker room access on the basis of gender identity.”
The lawsuit against the transgender anti-discrimination rule was brought by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the Franciscan Alliance.
“Judge O’Connor’s decision to prevent the Department of Health and Human Services from implementing crucial protections for transgender people seeking healthcare services puts thousands of people at risk of marginalization, harassment, and discrimination at a time they are most vulnerable and in need of inclusive, respectful care,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
Writing in the blog Health Affairs, Timothy Jost, a professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Va., said, “Nothing in the [Affordable Care Act’s] section 1557 rule specifically requires practitioners or health care facilities to provide gender transition services. … The rule does not impose on health care professionals an obligation to provide gender transition services…. It is troubling that this litigation has been promoted based on false statements about the requirements of section 1557, which Judge O’Connor has to a certain extent uncritically accepted.”
But just a few days later, the Washington Post reported that Jionni Conforti, a 33-year-old transgender man, is suing a Catholic hospital for not accommodating his transition-related hysterectomy. The suit referenced both the (now blocked) Affordable Care Act rule and New Jersey’s anti-discrimination statute.
Lambda Legal, which is representing Conforti, said the hospital was not entitled to “decide who their patients are.”
But suing a Catholic hospital for not accommodating a gender-realignment surgery raises many issues about the failure to recognize the difference between a private/religious and public/government facility. If a Catholic hospital has no right not to host a gender transition-related surgery, can a patient demand it also allow elective abortions to be performed?