Jury awards transgender women $780K after judge rules ban on reassignment surgery is discriminatory

Jury awards transgender women $780K after judge rules ban on reassignment surgery is discriminatory
A Wisconsin jury has awarded $780,000 in damages to two transgender women after a state ban on insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgery was ruled as sexual discrimination. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

A Wisconsin jury has awarded $780,500 in damages to two transgender women after a state ban on insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgery was ruled to be sexual discrimination, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Last month, U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled that a ban on transgender medical procedures was discriminatory. He ordered the state and insurance companies in the state to provide transgender health care services for state employees.

“Discrimination comes with a cost, and for the state of Wisconsin the bill has come,” Larry Dupuis, legal director of the Wisconsin ACLU, told the State Journal in a statement.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Shannon Andrews, a cancer researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and Alina Boyden, a University of Wisconsin graduate student.

The ACLU claimed that the insurance coverage ban for transgender treatments was in violation of their civil rights.

The jury’s decision to award damages in the lawsuit was based on Conley’s ruling as a matter of law.

Andrews was awarded $479,500 and Boyden was awarded $301,000 for medical reimbursement and emotional pain and suffering.

“No one should have to tell their story to a room full of strangers to justify their medical expenses, but I am thankful that I had the opportunity to share my story,” Boyden said in a statement, according to the State Journal. “I hope this sends a powerful message to fellow transgender people in Wisconsin that our health matters.”

What’s the story?

In September, Conley ruled in agreement with the ACLU that the state’s Group Insurance Board’s exclusion for “procedures, services, and supplies related to surgery and sex hormones associated with gender reassignment” violated Title VII, the Affordable Care Act, and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, according to Courthouse News Service.

Prior to 2016, reassignment surgery and other services for transgender services were not covered.

Then, in the wake of regulations promulgated under the Affordable Care Act, lawyers for the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Fund argued that coverage was mandated by federal law.

In July 2016, the state’s Group Insurance Board voted to remove the exclusion.

The following month, the state Department of Justice, at the request of Gov. Scott Walker, asked the board to reconsider its decision citing “unlawful” federal rules “improperly interpret” Title IX, according to the State Journal.

In December 2016, the state board voted to reinstate the exclusion, which would go into effect Feb. 1, 2017, unless the rules under the ACA were stricken down by a court.

A federal court ruled that the regulations under the ACA violated the law and the exclusion went back into effect.

What else?

In July, Conley ruled in another case that the state was prohibited from refusing to use Medicaid funds for gender reassignment surgery.

The reinstatement of transgender health care coverage for state workers will go into effect Jan. 1.

(H/T: Wisconsin State Journal)