Federal Trial Court Issues Injunction Against Anti-LGBTQ Provisions of HHS’ Health Care Discrimination Rule

Browse By

Blog Search

August 17, 2020

Today, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued an injunction in Walker v. Azar, one of the various challenges to the Trump administration’s health care discrimination rule, which is scheduled to go into effect Tuesday, August 18, 2020. 

The decision in Walker prevents HHS from rolling back the Obama-era regulatory definition of “on the basis of sex” under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which categorizes sex stereotyping and gender identity discrimination as discrimination on the basis of sex, during the ongoing litigation. The court’s decision did not address the Revised Rule’s remaining provisions, including its elimination of the prohibition on categorical exclusions, elimination of language access protections for people with limited English proficiency, and incorporation of religious exemptions, all of which are at issue in Lambda Legal’s challenge to the health care discrimination rule. 

In response to the decision, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney and Health Care Strategist Omar Gonzalez-Pagan issued the following statement: 

“In the midst of a global pandemic, the Trump administration has sought to invite discrimination in health care against LGBTQ people and other vulnerable populations. Today, a federal court has rejected their efforts and stopped the health care discrimination rule’s rollback of protections for LGBTQ people from going into effect. We congratulate Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker, Cecilia Gentili, HRC and their co-counsel on this important victory in the fight against the Trump administration’s failed public health policy, and we look forward to a decision in our case challenging the health care discrimination rule. The safety and lives of LGBTQ people, but especially transgender people, hang in the balance.”

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Carl Charles added:

“LGBTQ people, particularly transgender people, have been under constant attack by the Trump Administration. HHS’s health care discrimination rule threatens to wreak havoc and confusion, hurting our most vulnerable populations, who already are suffering disproportionately at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic. We applaud today’s decision and look forward to continuing our fight against this rule that unlawfully targets and singles out LGBTQ people for discrimination during their most critical time of need, when seeking health care. Our communities deserve better.”

On June 22, Lambda Legal and Steptoe & Johnson LLP filed Whitman-Walker Clinic v. HHS, another challenge to the health care discrimination rule in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which also seeks reversal of the Trump administration’s aim to eliminate LGBTQ people from Section 1557 of the ACA, as well as the provisions that eliminate access to care for people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and allow for health care providers to elevate their own religious interests over the needs of their patients. On August 3, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard oral arguments regarding Lambda Legal’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction asking for the district court to stop the rule in its entirety. A decision is pending. 

The lawsuit, Whitman-Walker Clinic v. HHS, is filed on behalf of Whitman-Walker Health, the TransLatin@ Coalition and its members (including leaders of affiliated organizations like Arianna’s Center in Florida), Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, AGLP: The Association of LGBTQ Psychiatrists, and four individual doctors.

If you experience discrimination in a health care setting, let us know via our Health Care Tracker.

Learn more about Whitman-Walker Clinic v. HHS.

See Lambda Legal’s Know Your Rights: Health Provider Discrimination, a resource for transgender and gender nonconforming people.