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Trump rule on transgender healthcare blocked at the 11th hour

A federal judge indicated that he thought the Trump administration's so-called transgender rule is invalid.
A federal judge indicated that he thought the Trump administration’s so-called transgender rule is invalid in light of the Supreme Court ruling in June on a case involving similar issues in the context of job discrimination.
(Associated Press)

A federal judge blocked the Trump administration on Monday from enforcing a new regulation that would roll back healthcare protections for transgender people.

Finalized days after the Supreme Court barred sex discrimination against LGBTQ individuals on the job, the regulation from the federal Department of Health and Human Services was to have taken effect Tuesday.

Monday’s preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge Frederic Block in Brooklyn, N.Y., bars the administration from enforcing the regulation until the case can be heard in court and decided. Block indicated he thought the Trump administration’s so-called transgender rule is invalid in light of the Supreme Court ruling in June on a case involving similar issues in the context of job discrimination.

“When the Supreme Court announces a major decision, it seems a sensible thing to pause and reflect on the decision’s impact,” Block wrote in his order, suggesting the agency may want to reconsider. “Since [Health and Human Services] has been unwilling to take that path voluntarily, the court now imposes it.”

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The Health and Human Services healthcare rule was seen as a signal to President Trump’s social and religious conservative supporters that the administration remained squarely behind them after the shock of the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision, written by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Gorsuch wrote. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what (civil rights law) forbids.”

Democratic presidential candidates vowed to reverse President Trump’s rollbacks of LGBTQ rights as they sought to appeal to a key group of voters in the race for the party’s 2020 nomination.

In a tweet, Trump called that “horrible & politically charged” and compared it to a shotgun blast in the faces of conservative Republicans.

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The Health and Human Services rule sought to overturn President Obama-era sex discrimination protections for transgender people in healthcare. Similar to the underlying issues in the job discrimination case before the Supreme Court, the healthcare rule rests on the idea that sex is determined by biology. The Obama-era version relied on a broader understanding shaped by a person’s inner sense of being male, female, neither or a combination.

The lawsuit against the Trump administration rule was brought by an advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, on behalf of two transgender women. One of the plaintiffs is an Army veteran, and the other a writer and activist.

Judge Block dismissed as “disingenuous” arguments from Health and Human Services that its rule was legally valid, and he wrote that the agency acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in enacting it.

The department said it was disappointed by the judge’s decision.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it a “victory for the LGBTQ community and the rule of law.”

The judge “was unambiguous in ... ruling that the administration’s actions were in blatant violation of the Affordable Care Act’s protections and the Supreme Court’s recent ... decision, which affirmed that discrimination ‘on the basis of sex’ included sexual orientation and gender identity,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Judge Block was nominated to the federal bench by former President Clinton.


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