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Texas Federal Judge Halts Transgender Protections

A nationwide preliminary injunction has been issued to bar enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) anti-discrimination protections for transgender and abortion health services.

The ACA does not allow discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability with regard to certain health programs or activities. A Final Rule was implemented in 2016 that prohibited discrimination by any health program or activity receiving federal assistance on grounds covered by Title VI, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title IX of the Civil Rights Act (education) and the Age Discrimination Act. Eight states and three private healthcare providers with religious missions sued to challenge the Rule’s interpretation of sex discrimination to include “gender identity” and “termination of pregnancy.” These groups argued that sex should be limited to birth gender identity and that the Rule should include religious exemptions. The federal government opposed the lawsuit, arguing that it only required entities to provide health services and health insurance in a nondiscriminatory manner.

A federal district court judge in Texas sided with the states and religious institutions on December 31. The judge decided that the federal government had acted outside its authority and that Congress did not mean for sex discrimination to have the more expansive definition included in the ACA and that it should have the religious exemptions included in Title IX. This judge also held that burden on the exercise of religion was not the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling government interest.