The U.S. Justice Department signaled on Tuesday plans to reverse an Obama-era regulation barring discrimination against transgender people in health care, including the denial of transition-related services and gender reassignment surgery.
In a legal filing against litigation challenging the rule, the Justice Department under U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions seeks a stay and remand of the case to give the Department of Health & Human Services “the opportunity to reconsider the regulation at issue,” citing the administration’s desire to assess “the reasonableness, the necessity and efficacy” of the regulation.
“Defendants respectfully request that the court remand this matter to HHS and stay this litigation pending the completion of rulemaking proceedings,” the filing says.
Last year, HHS under President Obama made final a rule barring anti-transgender discrimination in the health care by interpreting the prohibition of sex discrimination under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act to apply to transgender people.
But U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas issued an order in December barring the U.S. government from enforcing the regulation as a result of litigation filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The Justice Department under Sessions had already missed a deadline to file an appeal of the preliminary injunction before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement the rule the Trump administration plans to take away is “literally life-saving for transgender people all across the country.”
“The administration is rejecting the views of every major medical associations, most courts, and most Americans, who believe that people should not be denied health care because of who they are,” Keisling said. “That’s not just bad science and bad law—it’s a dangerous attack on transgender people’s ability to survive.”
The filing signals the Trump administration’s plan to undo the Obama-era rule after the appointment of Roger Severino as assistant secretary of health for civil rights. As a scholar at the anti-LGBT Heritage Foundation before his new appointment, Severino took anti-trans positions. Now his role consists of enforcing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and the rule against anti-trans discrimination in health care.