Monday’s Supreme Court ruling to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in the workplace could derail the Trump administration’s latest restrictions on transgender rights in healthcare.
In the Trump administration’s most recent attack on the LGBTQ+ community, the anti-discrimination policies that protect transgender people in healthcare settings have been reversed. Under the Affordable Care Act, healthcare providers could not refuse care to patients on the basis of sex. During the Obama administration, the definition of sex was expanded to include transgender patients. However, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has chosen to interpret these provisions differently, taking the meaning of sex to be “male or female and as determined by biology,” as stated in the HHS rule.
But the latest Supreme Court ruling to ban workplace discrimination towards LGBTQ+ individuals is in direct conflict with the Trump administration’s definition of sex discrimination. The landmark ruling comes just three days after Trump’s rollback of protections for transgender patients and could make it much harder to defend it in court.
The court’s interpretation of sex discrimination includes sexual orientation and gender identity. This interpretation will likely reach across other areas that feature sex discrimination policies, rendering the Trump administration’s narrow and biological definition moot. “The court here today clearly articulated that discrimination based on sexual orientation, discrimination based on gender identity, are forms of sex discrimination,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
Both legal experts and critics of the court’s ruling have noted the widespread effects that it may have. “Any law, and I think there are dozens, that says you can’t discriminate because of sex is going to have a reckoning with this ruling,” said Georgetown Law professor, Paul Smith. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote, “What the court has done today… is virtually certain to have far-reaching consequences.”
Sources: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (6/12/20); Axios 6/16/20; The New York Times 6/15/20