Judge blocks Trump rollback of ‘sex-change’ coverage, citing Gorsuch LGBT opinion
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August 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration from reversing an Obama-era rule mandating coverage of “gender transition” operations in federally funded health plans, citing the Supreme Court’s controversial June ruling on LGBT “nondiscrimination.”
In May 2016, the Obama administration redefined “sex discrimination” under the so-called Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) to include an individual’s “internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female.” The rule also covered “termination of pregnancy” under its definition of sex discrimination.
The rule was blocked in December of that year, meaning it hasn’t actually been enforced, but as long as it is on the books there remains a risk of a future court reviving it. So the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in June that it would “enforce Section 1557 by returning to the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”
In response, several LGBT activist groups sued to preserve the Obama regulation, and on Monday U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Block granted them a preliminary injunction, the Washington Post reports. Block claimed the Trump administration acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in reversing the regulation despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County that redefined “sex disicrimination” in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to its original biological meaning.
“By its own admission, HHS knew that the case was pending and would have ‘ramifications’; it must also have known that a decision would be handed down before the end of the Supreme Court’s term,” Block wrote. “It then had an (admittedly brief) opportunity to re-evaluate its proposed rules after the case was decided contrary to its expectations. Instead, it did nothing.”
“The timing might even suggest to a cynic that the agency pushed ahead specifically to avoid having to address an adverse decision,” Block continued. “But whether by design or bureaucratic inertia, the fact remains that HHS finalized the 2020 Rules without addressing the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock [...] When the Supreme Court announces a major decision, it seems a sensible thing to pause and reflect on the decision’s impact [...] Since HHS has been unwilling to take that path voluntarily, the Court now imposes it.”
“We applaud today’s decision and look forward to continuing our fight against this rule that unlawfully targets and singles out LGBTQ people for discrimination during their most critical time of need, when seeking health care,” pro-transgender Lambda Legal staff attorney Carl Charles said in response to the news.
The ruling is the latest fallout from the Bostock decision, which was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee. Following that case, the president announced he will be compiling and releasing an updated list of judges for future Supreme Court vacancies, though Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) argues that “just doing over what we have been doing in the past” will not improve future nominees unless the criteria by which they are chosen is overhauled.