A federal judge has ordered the state of Wisconsin to pay costs associated with University of Wisconsin transgender employees’ transition surgeries.
According to a report in the Journal Sentinel, Judge William Conley ruled there was “no legally valid reason to exclude medically necessary care” from the employees, and added that some of the defendants’ arguments were “unhinged from reality.”
Plaintiffs Alina Boyden and Shannon Andrews sued last year after being denied surgery their doctors said was “a necessary part of the gender transitions.”
“I hope that this will be a powerful signal that trans people are not fair game for discrimination and that our lives and health are not a political football,” Andrews said in an ACLU of Wisconsin press release.
The case had been heading for trial, but on Tuesday, Conley found the state’s policy violated Title VII, the Affordable Care Act and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Now, the only trial will be over the damages the plaintiffs are entitled to, which is set for Oct. 9. Andrews has already had two surgeries, which she paid for, and seeks reimbursement of those costs. She and Boyden also seek damages for emotional distress. …
In July, Conley ruled that two transgender Medicaid recipients in Wisconsin are also entitled to have their gender-affirming surgeries covered by Medicaid.
He cited that decision in Tuesday’s ruling. He took particular issue with the state’s argument that excluding the surgery does not compel the plaintiffs to adopt “certain cultural stereotypes” or risk adverse consequences.
“To the contrary,” the state argued that “to require coverage would ‘insert the State directly into the business of encouraging surgeries meant to conform peoples’ appearances to their own perceived sex stereotypes.’ “
Conley called that position “unhinged from reality” and explained that not all transgender people suffer from gender dysphoria and even among those who do, surgery is not always the recommended treatment.
Conley did rule that individual defendants named in the lawsuit were protected by qualified immunity from having to pay damages. However, based on the Affordable Care Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Wisconsin Group Insurance Board and Department of Employee Trust Funds are not.
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