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    U.S. Supreme Court: Transgender Discrimination Case Can Go Forward

    By Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis–

    Five years ago, Evan Minton, a Sacramento-area transgender man, scheduled a hysterectomy as part of his gender confirmation surgery to be performed by his physician at his local hospital, Mercy San Juan Medical Center. Everything was set for the procedure, and two days before the scheduled date, Minton received a routine phone call with a nurse to go over details. When Minton mentioned to the nurse that he was transgender, everything suddenly changed.

    The next day the hospital unilaterally cancelled the procedure. Its sole reason was that Minton’s surgery was part of his gender confirmation process as a transgender man. The hospital justified its refusal on the grounds of religion because it is a Catholic hospital. Minton said he was shocked that his local community hospital would try to use “religious doctrine” to prevent transgender people like himself from having medically necessary hysterectomies as part of their gender confirmation. He was devastated and distraught.

    But Minton stood up for himself and the broader LGBTIQ community. Along with his physician and lawyer, he brought legal, political, and media attention to the hospital’s actions. Mercy San Juan is part of the Dignity Health medical conglomerate. Under pressure, Dignity Health permitted Minton to have the surgery at a Methodist Hospital that was also part of Dignity Health.

    Minton sued Dignity Health for discrimination. Dignity Health tried to get Minton’s case thrown out of court. When it failed, it went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court refused to hear Dignity Health’s appeal in a victory for Minton.

    The Supreme Court’ s declining to hear the case is also good news, at least for now, for the LGBTIQ community at the U.S. Supreme Court. At present, the Supreme Court’s conservative Catholic majority does not seem to be targeting LGBTIQ freedom and equality in the same aggressive manner it sadly appears to be eviscerating women’s reproductive freedom.

    Last June, the Supreme Court issued a setback to LGBTIQ people in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia when it ruled that Catholic Social Services could discriminate against same-sex couples while receiving taxpayer money to certify foster parents and place children. But it did so on narrow grounds under the particular circumstances of the case. Subsequently, the Court declined to hear appeals of two other lower court victories for LGBTIQ people in discrimination cases and now Minton’s case.

    However, three Justices (Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch) voted to hear Minton’s case as well as one of the other cases regarding an attempt to discriminate under the guise of religion. And they urged the Court to issue a more sweeping decision in Fulton.
     
    Additional cases of Catholic and other conservative Christian-affiliated organizations seeking to discriminate against LGBTIQ people in ways that would otherwise violate the law will undoubtedly come to the Court. Cases currently pending in lower courts include the following: an attempt by a for-profit business to engage in employment discrimination against LGBTIQ people in violation of Title VII on the grounds of conservative Christian religious beliefs; a social services agency under federal contract through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denying a lesbian the ability to be a foster parent because of her sexual orientation; and cases pertaining to private businesses denying services to LGBTIQ people on religious grounds. This term, the U.S. Supreme Court may decide whether conservative Christian schools that attempt to inculcate their Biblical views in their students and thereby prohibit openly LGBTIQ students from attending and refuse to hire LGBTIQ teachers can receive public tuition funding.

    Minton’s case pertaining to his medically necessary care as a transgender person illuminates the potentially serious real life implications of businesses and organizations using religion to justify denying LGBTIQ people services or otherwise treating them unequally. San Juan Mercy Hospital was Minton’s local community hospital where he lived. We know the discomfort he would likely now feel if he needed to go there for an emergency or other medical treatment.

    The Dignity Health’s slogan is “Hello Humankindness.” Two years ago, it became part of CommonSpirit Health. When it comes to Minton and discrimination against LGBTIQ people, the organization far from demonstrates kindness or a common spirit. It denies us our full dignity as LGBTIQ people.

    Dignity Health operates not just in the Central Valley, but also in the heart of San Francisco and across the West. We hope that someday it will fully embody the values it professes.

    Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis, together for over three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008. Their leadership in the grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA contributed in 2015 to making same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

    Published on November 18, 2021