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Tipsheet

Federal Court Rules Against Employer That Denied Transgender Health Care Coverage

AP Photo/Robin Rayne

Last week, a federal court in Georgia ruled against an employer that excluded “gender-affirming” medical care from health insurance coverage. The judge ruled it violated federal law. 

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NBC News reported that sheriff’s deputy Anna Lange, a transgender woman, sued in 2019 after being denied health care coverage for a “vaginoplasty” procedure in November 2018.

Federal Chief Judge Marc Treadwell of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia wrote that the policy “plainly discriminates.”

Chief Judge Marc Treadwell, of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, wrote in the opinion that the exclusion "plainly discriminates because of transgender status," and as a result violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin and other protected categories.

He pointed to evidence that showed Houston County's health care plan, provided through Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, would provide hormone therapy for menopause and surgery for breast cancer, but it would not provide the same procedures as treatment for gender dysphoria.

"The undisputed, ultimate point is that the Exclusion applies only to transgender members, and it applies to Lange because she is transgender," Treadwell wrote, citing a landmark Supreme Court decision in June 2020, which found that Title VII's protection from discrimination based on sex also includes gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination.

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Lange was represented in part by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. In a statement, Lange said that it’s a “huge relief.”

“It’s a huge relief to know that I can finally receive the medically necessary care that I was repeatedly and unfairly denied,” Lange said. “I can confidently move forward with my life knowing that gender affirming care is protected under federal law. This decision is not only a personal victory, but a tremendous step forward for all transgender Southerners who are seeking insurance coverage for medically necessary care.”

TLDEF Legal Director David Brown said in a statement that “the Court’s decision makes clear that depriving transgender people of healthcare is not only immoral but also illegal.”

“An employer cannot refuse health coverage to a transgender employee who needs access to medically necessary, life-saving care. This ruling will have transformative impact on the quality of life for countless transgender people who live in the South,” he added. 

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