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Police Officer Sues County for Denying Transgender Health Care

Trans Police Officer Sues County for Denying Transition Care

“I just want to be treated fairly and earn the same benefits as my co-workers who serve on the force.”

A trans police officer in Georgia has filed suit against her county for excluding medically necessary coverage for transgender people in its health care plan.

Anna Lange has served as a sheriff's deputy with the Houston County Sheriff's Office for 13 years, and in 2017, she began transitioning on the job after coming out to colleagues as a woman. This process was delayed, however, when the county refused to cover any needs related to gender-affirming surgical procedures or hormone therapy in her employee health plan.

Lange testified before the Houston County Board of Commissioners asking them to reconsider, but the county maintained its policy is to deny transition coverage.

After a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on Wednesday, Lange said the decision is discriminatory and hurtful, particularly given her many years of dedicated service on the force.

"I have devoted more than a decade of my life to a job that I love with the backing of supervisors and colleagues who truly respect my work," she said in a statement. "Despite my dedicated years of service, the county has singled out and excluded the medically necessary care that I need simply because I'm transgender."

"I just want to be treated fairly and earn the same benefits as my co-workers who serve on the force," Lange added.

Lange is being represented by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, a New York City-based nonprofit advocacy group. In a statement, Senior Staff Attorney Noah Lewis said the county's refusal to cover trans medical needs "violates Georgia and federal law" under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"The Houston County Board of Commissioners had the opportunity to treat all of its employees equally and vote to end this unfair treatment of county employees and their families," he said. "They failed to do so."

TLDEF will be joined in the case by the law firms Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Cooper, Barton, & Cooper.

While organizations like American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychological Association all back transgender inclusions in employee health plans, this is hardly the first case of a trans person being denied medically necessary care.

Skyler Jay, the first trans person to be made over on Netflix's Queer Eye, recently settled a suit against the University System of Georgia, where he worked as a catering manager. As a result of that lawsuit, USG agreed last month to overturn its policy of refusing coverage to trans employees, a decision that affected more than 60,000 workers at the 26 public colleges in its system.

LGBTQ+ organizations in Georgia urged Houston County to follow USG's lead and reverse policies that make it more difficult for transgender people to bring their whole selves to work.

"All people deserve the right to healthcare, including transgender people," said Gender Policy Manager for Georgia Equality Chanel Haley in a statement. "Transgender-related surgeries and other procedures are a vital part of the journey to health and well being for many trans individuals. Insisting on medically necessary care is not an unreasonable expectation."

Kayla Gore, southern regional organizer for Southerners on New Ground, called the county's refusal to cover Lange "negligent and reckless," saying the decision shows "complete disregard for her health and well being."

"Medically necessary treatment is a right not a privilege," Gore said in a statement. "We expect our elected officials to serve all those entrusted to their care, including transgender people. Through this shameful action, Houston County has failed one of its most respected leaders."

RELATED | Queer Eye's Skyler Jay Gets Transphobic University Policy Overturned

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