Providing Transgender People Health Care Violates Religious Beliefs, New Lawsuit Claims

Hobby Lobby was bad. This could be worse.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is challenging every transgender protection he can. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ERIC GAY
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is challenging every transgender protection he can. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ERIC GAY

Texas state officials have made no secret about their desire to discriminate against transgender people. A new lawsuit filed Tuesday makes clear that they now don’t even want to provide transgender people health care.

Just a day after a federal court blocked the Department of Education from protecting transgender students from discrimination in schools thanks to a different lawsuit, Texas — joined by Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky, and Kansas and represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty — filed a new complaint challenging regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that prohibit discrimination against transgender people in health care. The rule ensures that trans people can access medically necessary treatment in procedures, have those procedures covered by insurance, and have their gender respected in medical facilities.

In addition to the five states, the plaintiffs include the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA)and Franciscan Alliance, a Catholic hospital system. According to the complaint, these organizations object to providing services (or even referrals) for transition-related care or providing insurance that covers such care because it violates their religious beliefs.

Essentially, this suit is akin to Hobby Lobby, except it objects to transgender care instead of birth control.

The complaint repeatedly refers to standards of care, and the need for states and physicians to be able to maintain “standards of care that rely upon the medical judgment of health professionals as to what is in the best interests of their patients.” Requiring doctors to perform procedures that they do not believe are in the best interest of the patient would turn “the venerable medical oath to ‘do no harm’ on its head.” Physicians should have the ability “to offer a contrary view” to HHS’s conclusions that transition-related treatments are no longer “experimental.” The plaintiffs in the suit believe that transition care is not only still experimental, but also “ethically questionable and potentially harmful.”

Building standards of care around this belief, the complaint assures, does not compromise patients’ respect:

Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, especially when in need of medical attention. The standard of care established in Texas, and around the country, enables patients to obtain quality healthcare as determined by medical professionals, and not those outside the doctor-patient relationship. The Regulation, however, usurps this standard of care. It discards independent medical judgment and a physician’s duty to his or her patient’s permanent well-being and replaces them with rigid commands.

Nowhere, however, does the suit acknowledge the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), which has maintained research-informed standards of care for transgender people for nearly 40 years. The WPATH standards, first proposed in 1979 and updated several times since, are based on “the best available science and expert professional consensus.” They recommend affirming transgender people’s identities and recognize that gender transition improves their well-being.

The plaintiffs in the suit make no secret of the fact that they reject this science in favor of their own religious beliefs. For example, the suit cites CMDA’s “Transgender Identification Ethics Statement,” which takes the literal opposite position of the WPATH standards, because validating transsexual “desires” is “contrary to a Christian worldview:

In contrast to the current culture, CMDA believes that finding one’s identity within God’s design will result in a more healthy and fulfilled life. CMDA believes, moreover, that social movements which contend that gender is decided by choice are mistaken in defining gender, not by nature, but according to desire. Authentic personal identity consists in social gender expression that is congruent with one’s natural biological sex. CMDA recognizes that this traditional view has become counter-cultural; however, CMDA affirms that God’s design transcends culture.

CMDA’s statement also claims that affirming children’s gender identity and allowing them to delay puberty has “lifelong physical, psychological, and social consequences,” even though the available evidence says the exact opposite — that delaying puberty is safe and totally reversible.

Like CMDA, Franciscan similarly rejects the existence of transgender identities:

Franciscan holds religious beliefs that sexual identity is an objective fact rooted in nature as male or female persons. Like the Catholic Church it serves, Franciscan believes that a person’s sex is ascertained biologically, and not by one’s beliefs, desires, or feelings. Franciscan believes that part of the image of God is an organic part of every man and woman, and that women and men reflect God’s image in unique, and uniquely dignified, ways. Franciscan does not believe that government has either the power or the authority to redefine sex.

The suit claims that even providing “psychiatric support” as part of a medical transition would violate its “best medical judgment and its religious beliefs.” Even simply providing insurance coverage for such procedures would “constitute impermissible material cooperation with evil.”

Combined with a court decision last week that justified a funeral parlor firing a trans woman for religious reasons, this lawsuit sets a terrifying precedent for transgender people. If these cases reach the Supreme Court and it follows the same reasoning it used in Hobby Lobby — perhaps less likely without Justice Antonin Scalia, but still possibleit would create a society in which transgender people could legally be denied the necessary foundations of life simply because of their identities.

According to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), this is the thirteenth lawsuit he has been “forced to bring against the Obama Administration’s continued threats on constitutional rights of Texans.” Since President Obama took office in 2009, Texas has sued his administration at least 43 times.