ACLU Acts to Block Court Order That Permits Discrimination Against Women, Transgender People Seeking Health Care

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Monday filed a motion to stay a nationwide court order preventing the federal government from enforcing an Affordable Care Act regulation that protects transgender people and women from discrimination in health care. The ACLU also asked the court to issue a formal ruling on its request to intervene in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell, was filed by a group of states and religiously affiliated health care organizations that object to the regulation. They argue that they should be allowed to deny essential health care services and coverage to transgender people and women. The ACLU originally moved to intervene on behalf of the ACLU of Texas and the River City Gender Alliance in September because the lawsuit seeks to undermine critical anti-discrimination measures and to allow religion to be used to harm others, including by denying medical care.

On December 31st, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of the regulation, which implements Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, just hours before it was to go into effect. The nationwide injunction restrains the government from enforcing the regulation to prevent public and private healthcare providers, including hospitals and health care centers, from discriminating against transgender people and women. Such discrimination may include harassment, refusal to perform essential healthcare services like reproductive or gender-affirming care, and denials of insurance coverage for essential health care services.

“Religious liberty does not mean the right to discriminate or harm others. No one should live in fear of being turned away at a hospital because of who they are, and we’re ready to fight this decision sanctioning discrimination,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the ACLU. “We won’t sit idly by while women and transgender people continue to see their rights come under assault.”

Kate Parrish, president of the Omaha, Nebraska-based River City Gender Alliance, said, “The judge’s court order direct attack on the transgender community’s right to function normally and safely in everyday life. Our access to medically necessary health care treatment is being restricted simply because of who we are.”

In addition to the Franciscan Alliance, the other plaintiffs in the case are the Christian Medical & Dental Associations and the states of Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky (through their governor), Kansas. Arizona, Louisiana, and Mississippi (through their governor).

The ACLU’s motion can be found at: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/franciscan-alliance-v-burwell-motion-ruling-intervention-and-stay-preliminary