The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Wisconsin, and volunteer attorneys from the law firm Hawks Quindel have sued Wisconsin’s state university system and insurance board over their refusal to provide gender-affirming health insurance coverage to state employees who are transgender.
The federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Alina Boyden, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Shannon Andrews, a cancer researcher at the University of Wisconsin Medical School.
“The state continues to deny our clients coverage for medically necessary treatment simply because they are transgender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” said John Knight, an attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project. “All that transgender people like Alina and Shannon are asking for is to be treated like everyone else, and that includes respect and coverage for the health care they need.”
The state’s Group Insurance Board approved coverage for such medically necessary care in July 2016, but under pressure from the state attorney general, voted in closed session to rescind the benefits in December. Boyden and Andrews filed challenges to the exclusion with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and they are now seeking relief in federal court.
“Many people can relate to paying into an insurance plan only to be told that the treatment they need is not covered,” said Andrews. “But when the reason you are denied coverage is because of who you are, it is even more painful. And it’s clearly discrimination.”
Boyden said, “Too many transgender people continue to face discrimination in all facets of life, including health care access, and so I felt compelled to stand up and try to do something about it.”
ACLU of Wisconsin Legal Director Larry Dupuis said, “The state should not be playing games with its transgender employees’ essential medical needs. It has cruelly backtracked on its promise to provide access to care that the medical community agrees is necessary.”
Counsel on the filing includes Dupuis of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Knight of the ACLU, and Nick Fairweather and Mike Godbe of the law firm Hawks Quindel.
The complaint can be found here: