Iowa Supreme Court rules Medicaid can be used for transition care

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DES MOINES — In a unanimous decision, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Friday that transgender Iowans can use Medicaid to pay for transition care.

The Des Moines Register reported that the decision struck down an administrative code that had classified transition related care as “cosmetic, reconstructive or plastic surgery” and explicitly bans “surgeries for the purpose of sex reassignment.” The court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the rule had violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

From the Register:

That law’s “gender identity classification encompasses transgender individuals — especially those who have gender dysphoria — because discrimination against these individuals is based on the nonconformity between their gender identity and biological sex,” Justice Susan Christensen wrote for the court.

This decision is thought to be the first by a state’s highest court holding that transgender people have the right to use public money for transition-related surgeries. As issues of LGBT rights swirl nationally, the decision could help open the door for challenges to bans in other states, about half of which have language similar to Iowa’s in their administrative code.

“As the ruling showed, this case presented a difficult question involving individual rights and the state’s interests,” said Lynn Hicks, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office. “This issue was a first for Iowa’s courts, and we thank the court for its guidance and for resolving this issue.”

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