Two district courts have recently stayed cases alleging that sex discrimination under ACA Section 1557 includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity and denial of coverage for gender transition, pending the Supreme Court’s decision in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board. The Supreme Court accepted certiorari in Gloucester in October 2016 to determine the validity of recent Department of Education Title IX guidance regarding gender identity. Briefing is currently under way. The district courts stayed the Section 1557 cases, reasoning that the Supreme Court’s decision would likely determine the validity of the Department of Health & Human Services’ Section 1557 regulations on gender identity as well.
ACA Section 1557 and Title IX rules on sex discrimination
Section 1557 (42 U.S.C. § 18116) prohibits entities that receive federal funds for health activities or programs from discriminating on the grounds prohibited by Title IX. Title IX generally prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex by recipients of federal education assistance. Title IX, however, permits federal fund recipients to set up “separate living facilities for the different sexes.” DOE and HHS regulations for Title IX, originally issued by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, define sex in binary terms – “one sex” versus “the other sex” — and permit recipients to set up comparable but separate housing and “toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex.”
The federal agency shift on sex discrimination: from biological sex to gender identity
In the years prior to the enactment of the ACA, courts reached opposite conclusions as to whether Title IX and comparable sex discrimination laws, such as Title VII, prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. With the enactment of the ACA and Section 1557, suits began to be brought against health plans and providers which claimed that refusal to treat or cover services for transgender persons based on their gender identity constituted sex discrimination. In one early Section 1557 decision from 2015, Rumble v. Fairview Health Services, a district court held that Section 1557 does provide a cause of action for discrimination based on gender identity.
Continue Reading Waiting for the Supremes: High Court’s Decision in Gloucester County to Determine Validity of ACA Section 1557 Gender Identity and Transgender Services Rules