Federal judge temporarily blocks Trump transgender health rule from taking effect

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked a Trump administration policy that would scrap ObamaCare’s nondiscrimination protections for sex and gender identity, one day before it was set to take effect.

According to Judge Frederick Block of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, the Trump administration’s rule is contrary to a recent Supreme Court ruling that outlawed workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The rule was issued in mid-June, during Pride Month. It made clear that the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination would be based on “the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”

The original Obama-era rule in 2016 made it illegal for doctors, hospitals and other health care workers to deny care to someone whose sexual orientation or gender identity they disapproved of.

The Trump administration aimed to roll back those nondiscrimination protections, as well as those contained in other health provisions.

But just three days after the rule was issued, the Supreme Court ruled in a separate case that LGBTQ people are protected from workplace discrimination.

In the 6-3 ruling, Justice Gorsuch wrote that “it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

While the administration briefly acknowledged that the Supreme Court would be ruling on related issues, the Department of Health and Human Services issued its policy anyway.

“HHS was apparently confident that the Supreme Court would endorse the Administration’s interpretation of sex discrimination,” Block wrote. “Its confidence was misplaced.”

Block wrote that HHS “undoubtedly intended the repeal to remove … perceived burdens on healthcare providers.”

The agency even acknowledged that some providers would revert to the policies and practices they had in place before the Obama administration expanded nondiscrimination protections.

“If even HHS understood that some providers would refuse treatments to transgender patients following the repeal, then its effect on those third parties was predictable,” Block wrote. 

Block pointed out that the administration’s interpretation of “sex” is exactly what the Supreme Court ruled against, even if it was addressed in a separate statute because courts have historically viewed the protections in a similar manner.

“HHS took a position on that issue, as it was entitled to do, but that position was effectively rejected by the Supreme Court,” Block wrote.

In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David praised the ruling as a “crucial early victory.” HRC filed the lawsuit on behalf of two transgender women in New York.

“We are pleased the Court recognized this irrational rule for what it is: discrimination, plain and simple. LGBTQ Americans deserve the health care that they need without fear of mistreatment, harassment, or humiliation,” David said. 

“This rule should be permanently tossed out and we will fight in court to ensure that it is.”

Tags court ruling LGBTQ rights ObamaCare transgender rights
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