Decide: Georgia county can’t deny gender surgical procedure to deputy

ATLANTA (AP) — A federal choose has discovered {that a} Georgia sheriff’s workplace was illegally discriminating when it denied gender reassignment surgical procedure to a deputy.

U.S. District Decide Marc Treadwell dominated June 2 that Houston County can’t exclude surgical procedure for the transgender girl from its medical health insurance plan, citing a 2020 U.S. Supreme Courtroom determination discovering {that a} Michigan funeral residence couldn’t fireplace an worker for being transgender.

The case includes Sgt. Anna Lange, an investigator within the center Georgia county who started her transition in 2017 after being identified with gender dysphoria.

“I can confidently transfer ahead with my life realizing that gender affirming care is protected beneath federal regulation,” Lange mentioned in an announcement launched by the Transgender Authorized Protection & Training Fund, which represented her. “This determination just isn’t solely a private victory, however an incredible step ahead for all transgender Southerners who’re looking for insurance coverage protection for medically mandatory care.”

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David Brown, authorized director for the fund, informed The Atlanta Journal-Structure that the ruling is believed to be the primary of its type within the South.

Neither Talton nor the county’s legal professionals responded to requests for remark.

Treadwell wrote in his order that Lange, a 16-year-employee, informed the sheriff and different county officers in 2018 that she needed to start dressing as a girl at work, whereas inquiring about whether or not Houston County’s well being plan would cowl gender reassignment surgical procedure.

Sheriff Cullen Talton, first elected sheriff in 1972, initially took it as a joke, Treadwell wrote, after which mentioned he doesn’t “consider in intercourse modifications,” earlier than finally granting permission for Lange to decorate as a girl, however warned she would wish “powerful pores and skin” to take care of her coworkers.

However the county well being plan had excluded intercourse change surgical procedure and medicines since 1998. Lange was denied authorization for surgical procedure in November 2018 after county personnel director Kenneth Carter informed the insurer the county needed to maintain the exclusion, despite the fact that the insurer had suggested Houston County in 2016 that the rule was discriminatory beneath the federal Inexpensive Care Act.

County commissioners voted unanimously to maintain the exclusion in 2019, after Lange had requested them to pay for the surgical procedure in a public assembly, claiming they have been making an attempt to maintain medical health insurance prices low. The surgical procedure she was looking for was estimated to price $25,600 on the time.

Treadwell discovered it’s undisputed that Lange’s surgical procedure “medically mandatory” and questioned whether or not the priority about prices was only a smokescreen to discriminate towards Lange.

“Definitely, the county now professes concern about prices, however that argument is undercut by the undisputed undeniable fact that the county constructed its price protection after the actual fact,” Treadwell wrote.

However the choose mentioned the Supreme Courtroom made clear in a 2020 case that treating somebody in another way as a result of they’re transgender violates a piece of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination on the premise of intercourse. For instance, the choose famous the county well being plan would pay for a mastectomy for most cancers therapy, however to not deal with gender dysphoria.

“Discrimination on the premise of transgender standing is discrimination on the premise of intercourse and is a violation of Title VII,” the choose wrote.

Lange’s case just isn’t but over. Treadwell should nonetheless rule on what cures are applicable. He additionally denied Lange’s claims for cash damages and for discrimination beneath the People with Disabilities Act.

Public information obtained by Lange’s legal professionals present the county has spend greater than $690,000 defending the case.

“It simply reveals the size persons are nonetheless prepared to go to discriminate towards transgender folks,” Lange informed the Journal-Structure.

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