Transgender coverage demand pressures Christian bosses
A group of employers is challenging the Biden administration’s rule requiring coverage of gender transition procedures
A group of Christian employers took on the Biden administration on Thursday, filing a lawsuit against federal regulations requiring most nonprofit and for-profit employers to pay for or perform gender transition surgeries, procedures, counseling, and treatments.
In a 49-page complaint, the North Dakota–based Christian Employers Alliance (CEA) argues the directives exceed the government’s statutory and constitutional authority. It claims the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are misinterpreting a provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by including gender identity under a ban on sex discrimination.
As a result, CEA argues, religious employers must pay for and provide health insurance coverage for gender transition procedures, and religious healthcare providers must physically perform or facilitate procedures and treatments that are contrary to their Biblical beliefs about sexuality and gender.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the Christian employers also filed a motion asking the court to block enforcement of the mandates. In an affidavit, CEA President Shannon Royce noted that the group’s members “believe that God purposefully designs and creates humans as distinctly either male or female [and] that His purposeful design and creation of humans as male or female is immutable.”
Healthcare providers that don’t comply could lose federal funding, and any employer could face civil penalties and punitive damages. But even compliance would come with a cost, said Stephen Vaughn, a Christian businessman and CEO of the Raleigh-based Kitchen and Bath Galleries: “This would be a strain on employers as well as all employees, who would wind up with higher healthcare costs.” He also objected to the mandated coverage on religious grounds.
The American College of Pediatricians, the Catholic Medical Association, and an OB-GYN doctor who specializes in caring for adolescents filed a lawsuit against HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, among others, in August challenging the mandate. They contend it could require doctors to violate their medical judgment or religious beliefs.
A federal judge in Texas blocked the HHS mandate in August. But Judge Reed O’Connor’s order only covered the parties to the case: Franciscan Alliance (a Catholic hospital network in Indiana and Illinois) and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations and its 19,000 members. A different judge in North Dakota blocked both the HHS and EEOC directives in January, but that ruling also only applied to the parties involved, a coalition of entities affiliated with the Catholic Church.
The Biden administration has sidestepped formal rule-making procedures to create some of its transgender mandates. That issue is now before a federal appeals court. College of the Ozarks, a Christian school, challenged an administration directive requiring schools to open dormitories, locker rooms, and bathrooms to students based on their gender identities. A federal judge in Missouri upheld the mandate in May.
“Any time an agency imposes a binding legal standard that citizens must follow or accept punishment under, it is a rule that the agency should have allowed the public to comment on and that the agency has to answer for in court,” said ADF senior counsel Matt Bowman. “It cannot escape accountability by simply not calling it a rule.”
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