On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, extends to protect on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as well.
The 6-3 majority ruling was regarded as a major win for LGBTQ Americans and a legitimization of the country’s famous claim to fairness and equality.
But as momentous as the announcement was, it came at a dark time for the community.
Just three days before, the Trump administration finalized a rule that would remove nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people seeking health care and health insurance. The rule is set to go into effect in mid-August.
This is another attempt by the current administration to redefine semantics regarding the definition of protections around “sex.” Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act establishes these protections, and an Obama-era rule encompasses gender identity within this understanding of the word. This most recent ruling seeks to reverse that understanding.
Sadly, this redefinition will only further harm one of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Trans people are already reluctant to seek medical care, and oftentimes they report feeling a burden to educate their health care providers about issues they are facing.
A 2018 study by the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that nearly half of transgender people surveyed reported avoiding the emergency department altogether when they needed acute care for fear of discrimination and negative patient-provider experiences.
The language of the rule itself claims its goals are “to better comply with the mandates of Congress, address legal concerns, relieve billions of dollars in undue regulatory burdens, further substantive compliance, reduce confusion, and clarify the scope of Section 1557 in keeping with pre-existing civil rights statutes and regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability.”
But when has progress ever been about “keeping with pre-existing” statutes? At what point does “reducing confusion” simply indicate an unwillingness to learn or tolerate that which you don’t understand? If these goals endanger Americans and discourage them from seeking potentially life-saving care, are they really worth pursuing?
The rule also feels particularly cruel as the nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis that has killed more people in America than in any other country.
It should not need to be said, but it will be said anyway: Trans people are people. They have the right to receive care as much as anyone, and given their vulnerable status, it is vital that we advocate loudly for that right.
Thankfully, legal activism groups like Lambda Legal are already making efforts to challenge the new rule in court.
But it will take clear and consistent pressure on all sides to secure these rights for transgender people today and tomorrow. And in this sociopolitical climate, when it seems there is so much to fight for, that pressure can and should be applied.
The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of Editor-in-Chief Shay Cohen; managing editor Arianna Vedia; news editor Angelica Perez; Cecilia Lenzen, life and entertainment editor; David Silva Ramirez, life and entertainment reporter; Tritima Achigbu, life and entertainment reporter; and copy editor Andrew Walter.