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APLA Health Applauds Supreme Court Ruling on Employment Discrimination Protections for LGBTQ People

Supreme Court Decision Deals a Blow to Trump Administration’s Rule to Roll Back Health Care Protections for Transgender Individuals

June 15, 2020 – APLA Health applauds the U.S. Supreme Court for today ruling that firing employees because of their sexual orientation or gender identity violates federal law. Today’s decision is a landmark win for the LGBTQ community and clarifies for the first time ever that LGBTQ people are protected from employment discrimination in every city and state across the country.

“No one should fear being fired or discriminated against because of who they are or whom they love,” APLA Health CEO Craig E.Thompson said. “While California has long protected LGBTQ people from employment discrimination, the Supreme Court’s decision will ensure that every LGBTQ person in the country can enjoy these same protections. Today’s victory is an important step forward in the fight for full equality.”

The Supreme Court case concerned Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and sex. The question before the court was whether discrimination “because of sex” applies to LGBTQ people.

According to the 6-3 majority opinion written by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, “In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

Today’s decision comes on the heels of the Trump Administration releasing a final rule on Friday concerning Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health care programs.

The new rule takes a narrow interpretation of sex discrimination “according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.” The change eliminates critical protections from discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity, thereby allowing discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in health care. The rule also rolls back protections for women seeking abortions and those with limited English proficiency.

“Once again the Trump administration has demonstrated its disdain and outright cruelty toward the LGBTQ community,” Thompson said. “In the middle of Pride Month and on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub tragedy, the administration is making it even harder for transgender individuals and others in the LGBTQ community to access health care. The new rule reflects a criminal disregard for the health of the LGBTQ community in the midst of a global pandemic.”

The Human Rights Campaign has already announced that it plans to sue the Trump administration over the new rule. Today’s Supreme Court decision will almost certainly impact subsequent litigation, as the justices have decisively affirmed that discriminating against an employee on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity amounts to discriminating against them on the basis of sex.

It is important to remember that California state protections for LGBTQ individuals, people with limited English proficiency, and others remain in place despite the Trump Administration rule. California law prohibits health plans from denying care on the basis of a patient’s actual or perceived gender identity. Over the weekend the California Department of Health Care Services released a notice reiterating non-discrimination protections for all health care programs administered by the state, including the Medi-Cal program.