On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued a Catholic health care organization for allegedly discriminating against an employee's transgender child by refusing to provide chest reconstruction surgery.
Cheryl Enstad, of Bellingham, Washington, brought the suit, stating her employer, PeaceHealth, told her that her 17-year-old, Paxton, “was undeserving of medical care.” Paxton, a biological female who seeks to become male, wasn't covered under PeaceHealth's plan because as the organization said, it doesn't cover “transgender services,” The Seattle Times reported.
According to the ACLU's website, a doctor prescribed chest reconstruction surgery as a treatment for Pax's gender dysphoria.
In the lawsuit, the ACLU claimed PeaceHealth violated state and federal anti-discrimination laws, including the controversial Affordable Care Act.
“Under state and federal law, no company is allowed to single out and exclude one group of individuals from medical care that is prescribed for them by their doctors and that the company routinely provides for others,” Lisa Nowlin, an ACLU staff attorney, said.
While PeaceHealth didn't comment on the specifics of the complaint, it did release a statement purporting to strive for “an inclusive health care environment”:
PeaceHealth is committed to creating an inclusive health care environment. Throughout our 126-year heritage, we have been dedicated to embracing and celebrating the diversity of our communities, our caregivers and the individuals we are privileged to serve. We remain committed to promoting personal and community health, and treating each person in a loving and caring way.
That wasn't the first time the ACLU targeted a Catholic organization for refusing to provide transgender services. In April, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Dignity Health Mercy San Juan Medical Center, a Catholic hospital in California, for not providing a transgender individual, attempting to transition to male, with a hysterectomy.
It's unclear how Enstad's lawsuit will proceed, but it came against the backdrop of the Trump administration's attempt to reinvigorate religious liberty protections at the federal level. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued guidance Friday in an effort to carry out the president's executive order, signed in May, focused on protecting Americans's religious liberty.
Sessions's guidance clarified that his department should interpret the Constitution as guaranteeing businesses and individuals the right to abstain from certain actions. That guideline would appear to apply to situations similar to Enstad's.
The Trump administration is currently embroiled in several pending lawsuits with the ACLU, including one related to the president's decision to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military. And on Friday, the liberal, legal organization sued the Trump administration for exempting business who, due to a “sincerely held religious or moral objection,” opposed providing employees with contraception.