Court continued on Monday for a civil trial involving a sheriff's deputy seeking monetary damages from Houston County in Georgia. The deputy, Sgt. Anna Lange, alleged that the county's health insurance illegally denied coverage for Lange's gender reassignment surgery.
The lawsuit seeks damages for emotional distress, attorney fees, and repayment of over $10,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs. Lange claimed that the medical costs were incurred due to the county's insurance plan refusing to cover gender surgery.
In June, U.S. District Court Judge Marc Treadwell determined that Houston County's rejection to cover the surgery was illegal sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Judge Treadwell found that Lange's surgery was "medically necessary." His court order cited a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined a Michigan funeral home could not fire an employee for being transgender.
"This just shows that justice will prevail and bigotry and ignorance won't win," Lange said following the June ruling. "Hopefully this will send a message to the trans community and their employers who withhold trans healthcare that this won't be tolerated."
The lawsuit claimed that the county and superiors intentionally discriminated against Lange. Treadwell wrote in his June order that in 2018, the sheriff and other county officials were told that Lange wanted to start dressing as a woman at work. At that time, Lange inquired whether the health insurance policy would cover gender reassignment surgery.
According to Lange, Sheriff Cullen Talton responded that he did not "believe in sex changes." Nevertheless, Talton granted Lange permission to dress as a woman.
Houston County's health plan has excluded gender surgeries since 1998. In 2016, the county's insurance company recommended that the health plan be updated to include the surgery, stating that refusing to cover it is considered discriminatory under the Affordable Care Act. Regardless, the county chose to continue opting out of the coverage.
The judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support the lawsuit's claim that the county intentionally discriminated against Lange. Instead, Treadwell ordered a civil trial where the jury could decide if Lange should be awarded damages from the county.
Houston County argued that refusal to cover the surgery was not meant to be discriminatory towards Lange but rather to keep health insurance costs low.
Lange told WMAZ-TV, "Now that I've been through it and felt it, I know it certainly it takes everybody to stand up when they see something that isn’t right where people are being treated a certain way and just say, 'You know, enough.'"