Federal court issues injunction against anti-LGBTQ provisions of new HHS rule

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A transgender woman in a hospital gown being treated by a doctor. (Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly's Gender Spectrum Collection. Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection. Made available to media outlets via Creative Commons. No derivatives, no commercial use. See guidelines here: broadlygenderphotos.vice.com/guidelines)

NEW YORK — On Monday, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued an injunction in Walker v. Azar, one of the various challenges to the Trump administration’s health care discrimination rule, which is scheduled to go into effect Tuesday, August 18.

In a press release, Lambda Legal stated that decision in Walker prevents HHS from rolling back the Obama-era regulatory definition of “on the basis of sex” under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which categorizes sex stereotyping and gender identity discrimination as discrimination on the basis of sex, during the ongoing litigation.

The court’s decision did not address the Revised Rule’s remaining provisions, including its elimination of the prohibition on categorical exclusions, elimination of language access protections for people with limited English proficiency, and incorporation of religious exemptions, all of which are at issue in Lambda Legal’s challenge to the health care discrimination rule. 

In July, civil rights organizations and several states sued the Trump administration to prevent enforcement of the rule.

In 2016, the Obama administration finalized a rule implementing the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, transgender status, or sex stereotypes as forms of sex discrimination.  In May 2019, the Trump administration announced a proposed rule change designed to roll back these protections. The rule was finalized in July. It goes into effect in August.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, the Trump administration has sought to invite discrimination in health care against LGBTQ people and other vulnerable populations,” said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney and Health Care Strategist Omar Gonzalez-Pagan. “Today, a federal court has rejected their efforts and stopped the health care discrimination rule’s rollback of protections for LGBTQ people from going into effect. We congratulate Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker, Cecilia Gentili, HRC and their co-counsel on this important victory in the fight against the Trump administration’s failed public health policy, and we look forward to a decision in our case challenging the health care discrimination rule.”

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