Lambda Legal to 4th Circuit: Affirm Lower Court Ruling Striking North Carolina’s Discriminatory Transgender Health Care Ban for Transgender State Employees

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January 25, 2023

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in an appeal brought by the North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell and the Executive Administrator of the North Carolina State Health Plan (NCSHP) asking the court to reverse a lower court decision finding that the State violated the rights of transgender state employees by categorically excluding transgender health care coverage from the state employee health plan.  

“I am disappointed to see that North Carolina officials, particularly Dale Folwell, are doubling down on their discriminatory effort to deny me and others critical medical care by pursuing this appeal. I hope that the Court of Appeals affirms our win and we can finally put this issue to rest,” said Julia McKeown, an associate professor in North Carolina State University’s College of Education.   

Lambda Legal and the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund filed the lawsuit in March 2019 on behalf of several current and former state employees and their children who were denied coverage under the NCSHP) for medically necessary care. They are joined by pro bono counsel at HWG LLP and McDermott Will & Emery LLP. Last June, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina found that North Carolina violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In a later ruling, the Court also held that North Carolina had violated the plaintiffs’ rights under the Affordable Care Act. 

“Every worker, including public servants, should have equal access to employee health coverage,” said Tara Borelli, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal, who argued for the Plaintiffs. “Unfortunately, North Carolina has decided to single out transgender employees for discriminatory treatment and to deny them equal access to critical and medically necessary care, which is readily available to other state employees. The district court correctly ruled that this treatment violates the U.S. Constitution, and we hope the Fourth Circuit affirms that decision.” 

“Transgender health care is health care. Time and again, courts have affirmed that denying transgender people lifesaving medical care is not only immoral, it is also illegal,” said David Brown, Legal Director (he/they) for TLDEF. “We hope that the Fourth Circuit will join the numerous other courts in the South and across the country that have agreed that denying health care to transgender people is clearly discrimination and will not be tolerated.”    

“North Carolina singles out transgender employees for discriminatory treatment, denying them access to the same medically necessary care that is readily available to other state employees. The trial court correctly ruled that this violates the U.S. Constitution, and we believe this decision with withstand the test of time," Borelli added.