The United States is restoring a policy that grants transgender individuals protection from discrimination in the health care system, the Biden administration announced Monday.
This move will reverse a Trump-era policy that stated “sex” refers to a person’s gender assigned at birth, an attempt to allow discrimination in health care based on gender identity, although Trump’s policy never took effect because it was blocked by the courts before it went into effect.
Biden’s shift in policy will essentially restore Obama-era protections for gay and transgender people in the health care system. This is based on an Obama administration interpretation of the Affordable Care Act which interprets protection on the basis of “sex” as including gender identity and sexual orientation.
In a statement about the change, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra cited a 6-3 Supreme Court decision made last year where the court ruled that gay and transgender people are federally protected against job discrimination on the basis of their gender identity and sexual orientation. The decision will also allow HHS’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate claims of discrimination based on those protected categories.
“The Supreme Court has made clear that people have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex and receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. That’s why today HHS announced it will act on related reports of discrimination,” Becerra said. “Everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”
The ACLU praised the decision. “With health care for transgender youth under attack by state legislatures, this move to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in health care is critical,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in a statement. “The Biden administration has affirmed what courts have said for decades: Discrimination against LGBTQ people is against the law. It also affirms what transgender people have long said: Gender-affirming care is life-saving care.”
Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, was also happy with the policy change but called for Congress to make these protections permanent so that future administrations can’t reverse the policy again. “I am thankful that President Biden has put an end to this absurdity,” Uritus said. “It’s one more proof point that he is standing up for the LGBTQ community. This, however, is not enough. We need to see Congress pass laws that will prevent future administrations from taking away our rights.”