Judge: Georgia county can’t deny gender surgery to deputy

ATLANTA — A federal decide has discovered {that a} Georgia sheriff’s office was illegally discriminating when it denied gender reassignment surgery to a deputy.

U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell dominated June 2 that Houston County can not exclude surgery for the transgender girl from its medical insurance plan, citing a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court resolution discovering {that a} Michigan funeral residence could not hearth an worker for being transgender.

The case includes Sgt. Anna Lange, an investigator within the center Georgia county who started her transition in 2017 after being identified with gender dysphoria.

“I can confidently move forward with my life knowing that gender affirming care is protected under federal law,” Lange said in a statement released by the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, which represented her. “This decision is not only a personal victory, but a tremendous step forward for all transgender Southerners who are seeking insurance coverage for medically necessary care.”

David Brown, authorized director for the fund, instructed The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the ruling is believed to be the primary of its sort within the South.

Neither Talton nor the county’s attorneys responded to requests for remark.

Treadwell wrote in his order that Lange, a 16-year-employee, instructed the sheriff and different county officers in 2018 that she wished to start dressing as a girl at work, whereas inquiring about whether or not Houston County’s well being plan would cover gender reassignment surgery.

Sheriff Cullen Talton, first elected sheriff in 1972, initially took it as a joke, Treadwell wrote, after which mentioned he doesn’t “believe in sex changes,” earlier than finally granting permission for Lange to dress as a girl, however warned she would wish “tough skin” to take care of her coworkers.

But the county well being plan had excluded intercourse change surgery and medicines since 1998. Lange was denied authorization for surgery in November 2018 after county personnel director Kenneth Carter instructed the insurer the county wished to maintain the exclusion, though the insurer had suggested Houston County in 2016 that the rule was discriminatory beneath the federal Affordable Care Act.

County commissioners voted unanimously to maintain the exclusion in 2019, after Lange had requested them to pay for the surgery in a public meeting, claiming they had been attempting to maintain medical insurance prices low. The surgery she was looking for was estimated to value $25,600 on the time.

Treadwell discovered it is undisputed that Lange’s surgery “medically necessary” and questioned whether the concern about costs was just a smokescreen to discriminate against Lange.

“Certainly, the county now professes concern about costs, but that argument is undercut by the undisputed fact that the county built its cost defense after the fact,” Treadwell wrote.

But the judge said the Supreme Court made clear in a 2020 case that treating someone differently because they are transgender violates a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. For example, the judge noted the county health plan would pay for a mastectomy for cancer treatment, but not to treat gender dysphoria.

“Discrimination on the basis of transgender status is discrimination on the basis of sex and is a violation of Title VII,” the decide wrote.

Lange’s case shouldn’t be but over. Treadwell should nonetheless rule on what cures are acceptable. He additionally denied Lange’s claims for money damages and for discrimination beneath the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Public data obtained by Lange’s attorneys present the county has spend greater than $690,000 defending the case.

“It just shows the length people are still willing to go to discriminate against transgender people,” Lange instructed the Journal-Constitution.

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