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Third Court Blocks Trump's LGBTQ+ Healthcare Discrimination Rule

Second Court Blocks Trump LGBTQ+ Health Discrimination Rule

UPDATED (11/19/2019):

The hits just keep coming. For what is now the third time this month, a court has blocked Trump administration guidelines allowing health care workers to refuse to treat LGBTQ+ patients.

The latest ruling is courtesy of Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, who issued the ruling Tuesday. In a lawsuit filed by the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Lambda Legal, as well as the Center for Reproductive Rights and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Alsup claimed what critics have called the “Denial of Care” rule is unconstitutional.

The judge issued an injunction preventing the rule from going into effect, along with a clear and stern denunciation of the White House's anti-LGBTQ+ animus. “When a rule is so saturated with error, as here, there is no point in trying to sever the problematic provisions,” he wrote. “The whole rule must go.”

Lambda Legal celebrated the decision in a statement, calling the guidelines an “egregious and unconstitutional attack on women, [LGBTQ+] people and other vulnerable populations.”

“Judge Alsup joins Judge Stanley A. Bastian of the Eastern District of Washington and Judge Paul A. Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York in vacating this discriminatory and harmful rule, and in likely saving countless lives,” said Senior Attorney Jamie Gliksberg, reiterating similar previous comments made by the organization. “The Denial of Care Rule targets some of our most marginalized and vulnerable communities and deserves to be relegated to the dustbin of history.”

UPDATED (11/8/2019): 

For the second time in a week, a court has ruled that Trump administration guidelines allowing health care workers to refuse to treat LGBTQ+ patients is unconstitutional.

After a Wednesday ruling from the Southern District of New York calling “conscience” protections put forward by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “arbitrary and capricious,” the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington agreed. At the time of publication, Judge Stanley A. Bastian has not issued a written ruling along with his injunction but said one would be published shortly.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups celebrated another order vacating the policy, which was set to be rolled out later this month. Lambda Legal claimed the court rulings would “likely [save] countless lives.”

“Two judges in two days have recognized the Denial of Care Rule for what it is, an egregious and unconstitutional attack on women, [LGBTQ+] people and other vulnerable populations,” said Senior Attorney Jamie Gliksberg in a press release. “The Denial of Care Rule targets some of our most marginalized and vulnerable communities and deserves to be relegated to the dustbin of history.”

ORIGINAL (11/7/2019): 

A Trump administration rule allowing health care workers to refuse to treat LGBTQ+ patients was blocked on Wednesday after a district court ruled it unconstitutional.

In a 147-page decision, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York claimed that guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allowing hospitals and clinics to deny care on the basis of religious beliefs conflicts with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of characteristics like race and sex. LGBTQ+ advocates have long argued the latter term is inclusive of characteristics like sexual orientation and gender identity.

In finding that the HHS “conscience” protections violate the 55-year-old civil rights laws, Englemayer claimed it was “promulgated arbitrarily and capriciously” and called into question the “validity and integrity” of the Trump administration’s decision-making. 

The district judge also claimed it was “factually untrue” that the White House put forward the “religious freedom” protections following a “significant increase” in complaints that hospital workers and clinicians were being forced to violate the tenets of their faith by treating LGBTQ+ patients. Engelmayer estimated that just six percent of the cases cited by HHS — or less than two dozen — related to actual conscience claims. 

After the final draft of the rule was unveiled in May, the new HHS guidelines were scheduled to go into effect later this month. Engelmayer’s decision will enjoin the rule for now, while the Trump administration weighs a likely appeal to the ruling.

A spokesperson for the White House told Reuters that HHS and the Department of Justice are currently reviewing the verdict to determine how to proceed.

But for now, LGBTQ+ advocates celebrated the injunction. In a statement, Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a senior staff attorney with the Reproductive Freedom Project at the ACLU, called the decision “an important victory against the Trump Administration’s cruel and unlawful attempts to roll back critical patient protection.”

“Everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs,” Kolbi-Molinas said, “but religious beliefs do not include a license to discriminate, to deny essential care, or to cause harm to others.”

According to Reuters, the lawsuit against the “conscience” rule was brought forward by the state of New York and New York City, in conjunction with 21 other state and local municipalities. Planned Parenthood and the state of California filed their own legal challenges to the policy.

While a step in the right direction, Engelmayer’s ruling does not cover a recent HHS policy allowing adoption and foster care agencies to deny placement to same-sex couples. Although the rule directly targets LGBTQ+ families, Out previously reported that it could be used to deny services to queer and trans people in everything from homeless shelters to HIV/AIDS clinics. The American Civil Liberties Union plans to challenge the guidelines.

RELATED | Bigots Love Trump Proposal Discriminating Against LGBTQ+ Families

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