A two-year-old whose emergency treatment by a pediatric dentist was delayed because of the dentist’s view that “a child cannot have two mothers.” A week-old infant with a life-threatening reaction to a vaccine whose treatment was delayed because the hospital staff demanded that her non-biological mother prove she was the child’s “real” mom. A married same-sex couple turned away by several midwives and a birthing class provider during pregnancy.
These are just a few examples of the discrimination our families face on a regular basis when seeking health care. Yet instead of upholding its mandate to protect all families, the federal government has exacerbated the barriers to care that the LGBTQ community already faces. As part of its ongoing attacks against our community, the Trump Administration issued a Final Rule that emboldens a health care worker’s ability to refuse to participate in medical care based on religious or moral grounds – a rule that makes it easier for anyone involved in health care to deny a person access to health care services simply because they don’t approve of who they are, whom they love, or their family structure. During the rulemaking process prior to the final issuance of this rule, Family Equality filed comments objecting to rule because of its detrimental impact.
Immediately after the Final Rule was announced in May, numerous state and local governments and reproductive rights advocates filed suit in federal courts to challenge the legality of the rule. Among them, the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, and County of Santa Clara filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In New York federal court, the State of New York – joined by Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Chicago and Cook County Illinois – filed a complaint, as well as Planned Parenthood and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. There is also a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Washington brought by the State of Washington and in the District of Maryland brought by the City of Baltimore.
Family Equality is proud to have joined a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights in the three New York cases (it is not yet the appropriate time to file in the other cases). The brief highlights the pervasive and harmful discrimination that LGBTQ people face in accessing health care and explains that the Final Rule will compound these harms by inviting healthcare workers to refuse services or referrals to LGBTQ people.
As a result of these pending lawsuits, the implementation of the Final Rule has been delayed until November 20, 2019. But the Trump Administration has taken no quarter in finding other ways to chip away at our access to health care. Three months ago, the Trump Administration proposed significant rollbacks to Obama-era regulations that explicitly interpret the Affordable Care Act to prohibit discrimination in health care based on gender identity. Family Equality stands firmly opposed to this additional attempt to allow discrimination against our community, and we submitted public comments declaring our objections for the record.
As the 60-day public comment period for the latest regulation only recently expired, time will tell what the outcome will be. But we will remain steadfast and ready to take any action we can to protect our rights to healthcare. And we ask that you be on the lookout for and respond to requests to share your stories about denials and delays of health care because of discrimination. Your stories are among the most powerful tools to combat these egregious violations of our basic rights. We envision a future where LGBTQ people have equal access to quality health care services and affirming providers, and we need your help to get there.