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Victory! Third Judge Strikes Down Denial of Care Rule

On November 19, a third federal judge ruled that the Trump Administration's discriminatory denial of care rule is invalid. The rule would encourage healthcare providers to deny healthcare to individuals based on a religious or moral objection, endangering the health and well-being of LGBTQ people, women, people living with HIV and other marginalized communities. This lawsuit was brought by Lambda Legal, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the County of Santa Clara (CA) on behalf of several plaintiffs, including GLMA.

Please see below for more detailed information about the case.  

On May 28, 2019, GLMA became a plaintiff—alongside several LGBTQ and women’s healthcare organizations—in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s Denial of Care regulation that invites widespread discrimination in healthcare against LGBTQ patients, people living with HIV and women.

The regulation, also referred to as the so-called “conscience rule,” became final earlier this month and encourages healthcare workers to deny care or services to patients and clients based on a religious or moral objection.

"The Denial of Care rule strikes at the very core of GLMA’s mission by encouraging discrimination in healthcare against LGBTQ people, people living with HIV and women, all of whom already face frequent and pervasive discrimination when seeking healthcare,” said GLMA Executive Director Hector Vargas in a press release about the federal lawsuit naming HHS Secretary Alex Azar as defendant. “The Denial of Care rule also stands in direct conflict with the Joint Commission and the major medical and health professional associations representing physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychologists, social workers and other healthcare providers that have adopted standards to ensure all patients, including LGBTQ patients, are treated with respect and without bias and discrimination.

The rule endangers the lives of LGBTQ people by putting their health at risk and must be invalidated immediately,” Vargas said.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for Northern California and was filed jointly by Lambda Legal, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Center for Reproductive Rights in coordination with Santa Clara County, and with Mayer Brown, LLP serving as pro bono counsel.

In addition to GLMA, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include: Trust Women Seattle, Hartford GYN, Whitman-Walker Health, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Los Angeles LGBT Center, Center on Halsted, Mazzoni Center, Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists, Medical Students for Choice and various physicians.

As shared in the press release, the lawsuit argues that the rule is unconstitutional because it advances specific religious beliefs in violation of the First Amendment; violates patients’ rights to privacy, liberty and equal dignity as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment; and chills patients’ speech and expression in violation of the First Amendment, all to the detriment of patients’ health and well-being. The lawsuit also asserts that HHS violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act in creating the rule by arbitrarily and capriciously failing to consider the impact on patients.

To access the press release, click here.

To access the federal complaint, click here.


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