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LGBTQ organizations sue Trump administration over rule erasing health care protections

Trump admin sued over transgender health rule

A group of LGBTQ organizations and medical professionals sued Monday to block new rules announced by the Trump administration that removed federal protections against health care discrimination for transgender patients.

The 10 plaintiffs in the case argue that the June 12 regulations were made "with next-to-no legal, medical, or reasoned policy foundation, and contrary to the opinions of professional medical and public health organizations."

They also cite a June 15 Supreme Court decision that they say casts doubt on the viability of the White House's new rules. The Supreme Court found that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination "because of sex," applies to gay and transgender employees.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney and health care strategist for Lambda Legal, said in a press release announcing the lawsuit that the Trump administration's rule change "creates chaos and confusion where there was once clarity about the right of everyone in our communities, and specifically transgender people, to receive health care free of discrimination."

Lambda Legal and the law firm Steptoe and Johnson LLP filed the suit on behalf of health clinics, physicians and LGBTQ community organizations. The lawsuit accuses the government of, "in the midst of a global pandemic," seeking "to diminish protections from discrimination."

Protections against discrimination on the basis of sex were written into the Affordable Care Act, and in 2016, the Obama administration interpreted that provision to include gender identity and the transgender community.

But in announcing the new rule on June 12, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it was "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."

The agency did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

But in a June 17 statement to CBS News, Roger Severino, the director of HHS Office for Civil Rights, pointed to a December 2016 injunction by a federal judge that blocked the interpretation of the law favoring protections for transgender patients.

"Under (The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act), and state licensing and malpractice law, doctors are not allowed to withdraw life-saving treatments or deny emergency care for non-medical reasons.  To suggest that doctors would deny life-saving care to people based on their identity is scaremongering and insulting to the medical profession," Severino said.

The lawsuit filed Monday accuses the government of relying on just that one ruling to invite "health care insurers and providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people seeking health care."

Producer Jonathan McDougle contributed to this report.

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