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Judge halts new HHS rule extending healthcare protections to transgender patients

A Biden administration rule banning discrimination in healthcare against transgender patients was halted by a federal judge Wednesday following a challenge by a coalition of Republican-led states. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
A Biden administration rule banning discrimination in healthcare against transgender patients was halted by a federal judge Wednesday following a challenge by a coalition of Republican-led states. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

July 3 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked the implementation of new Biden administration rules banning discrimination against transgender patients by healthcare providers receiving federal funds.

In a 31-page ruling issued by Judge Luis Guirola Jr. of the Southern District of Mississippi, the court put on hold sweeping changes to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act made by President Joe Biden's Department of Health and Human Services in May, citing among his justifications last week's landmark Supreme Court ruling limiting the authority of federal regulatory agencies.

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Under the rule issued by the HHS, Section 1557's existing provisions barring providers or insurers from discriminating against patients on the basis of "race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability" were clarified to also include "sexual orientation and gender identity."

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The Biden administration leaned on a 2019 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Bostock vs. Clayton County, Ga. as the basis for the clarification. In that decision, the high court ruled that gay and transgender workers are protected from workplace discrimination. The White House also claimed the rule was legal under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 barring sex-based discrimination in education.

However, shortly after the HHS rule was issued a coalition of Republican-led states headed by Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti sued, claiming the administration had stretched the meaning of the Bostock decision by including transgender patients in the law's non-discrimination provisions.

In Wednesday's decision, Guirola agreed, writing, "This Court cannot accept the suggestion that Congress, with a 'clear voice,' adopted an ambiguous or evolving definition of 'sex' when it acted to promote educational opportunities for women in 1972. Title IX and its regulation snot only permit, but at times require, consideration of sex as well as separation on the basis of sex."

Guirola also cited the Supreme Court's sweeping and controversial ruling last week in which it significantly weakened the reach and authority of federal agencies by overturning the 40-year-old "Chevron precedent" holding that courts should defer to an agency's reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute.

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The judge's order temporarily halts implementation of the rule nationwide.

Skrmetti hailed the decision, saying in a statement: "Today a federal court said no to the Biden administration's attempt to illegally force every healthcare provider in America to adopt the most extreme version of gender ideology.

"The administration has over and over again issued regulations that mangle the law to advance an ideological agenda. This case is just one of many examples of Tennessee working with other states to block the unlawful abuse of regulatory power."

LGBTQ+ advocates, however, blasted the court's ruling, vowing the fight "isn't over."

"The discrimination LGBTQ+ people will continue to experience under this injunction is indefensible," Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said. "This ruling is not only morally wrong, it's also bad policy.

"Everyone deserves access to the medical care they need to be healthy and thrive. Instead, this court has sided with the fringe groups and politicians who want to bully our community at every opportunity. This isn't over: all LGBTQ+ people should receive the health care they deserve and be able to make informed decisions about our own bodies."

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