Judge halts Trump administration healthcare discrimination rule change

In June, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it would use “the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology,” effectively ending certain discrimination protections concerning sexual orientation and gender identity included in the Affordable Care Act.

However, The Hill reported on Monday that a federal judge in Brooklyn issued a temporary injunction blocking the Trump administration’s policy change from taking effect.  

The decision comes in the wake of a controversial Supreme Court decision authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch that significantly expanded existing federal protections from discrimination to include a prohibition on adverse treatment based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Judge issues injunction

In writing his majority opinion in that recent case — Bostock v. Clayton CountyGorsuch said that “homosexuality and transgender status are inex­tricably bound up with sex.”

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” he argued.

The high court’s ruling came just days after the HHS announced it was narrowing the definition of “sex” that would be used by the agency in such contexts, a fact on which Judge Frederick Block remarked while issuing his injunction this week.

“HHS was apparently confident that the Supreme Court would endorse the Administration’s interpretation of sex discrimination,” The Hill quoted Block as saying.

However, the Clinton-era appointee remarked that HHS’  “confidence was misplaced,” adding that the department “undoubtedly intended the repeal to remove…perceived burdens on healthcare providers.”

“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,” he continued.

“HHS took a position on that issue, as it was entitled to do, but that position was effectively rejected by the Supreme Court,” Block noted as supporting justification for his decision.

Advocates celebrate

Block’s injunction brought praise from Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, whose organization filed the case at issue on behalf of two transgender individuals.

“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 declared. The activist went on to contend that the “rule should be permanently tossed out and we will fight in court to ensure that it is.”

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