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Appeals Court to hear arguments on transgender health care ban for state employees
Last year a federal judge in Winston-Salem ruled the ban violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through discrimination based on sex and transgender status. That decision came just months after the U.S. Supreme court denied the state’s petition to review a lower court ruling that the state health plan wasn’t entitled to sovereign immunity and could be sued for violating the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
In 2019, Lambda Legal and the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) brought the original suit, Kadel v. Folwell, on behalf of eight plaintiffs – current and former state employees and their children – who were denied coverage under the state health plan. Their victory was celebrated by the LGBTQ community, along with a successful suit to allow transgender people born in North Carolina to change the gender marker on their birth certificates without undergoing medical transition. The appeal comes as transgender issues continue to be the focus of national political debates and State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who opposed the coverage from his initial run for that office, is increasingly seen as a likely Republican candidate for governor.
“We are confident that the district court’s decision is going to stand the test of time,” said Tara Borelli, one of the attorneys handling the case for Lambda Legal. “It’s so thorough and so well-reasoned that we don’t believe there is any basis to show reversible error.”
The defendants have never been able to offer any good explanation for excluding care for health care specific to transgender people, Borelli said, and courts across the country have found and continue to find those exclusions discriminatory.
“I don’t think they’ve advanced any argument on appeal that would persuade otherwise,” Borelli said.
As Policy Watch has reported, the board of trustees of the state health care plan voted to begin covering treatments for gender dysphoria at the end of 2016, near the end of Janet Cowell’s term as State Treasurer. The move was necessary to comply with the Affordable Care Act. When Folwell came into office in 2017, he made it clear he opposed the move, calling…
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