On May 31st, 2019, the ACLU of Iowa and National ACLU LGBT and HIV Project filed a lawsuit to block implementation of an Iowa law that was recently passed to restore the ban on Medicaid coverage for essential, gender-affirming surgery to transgender Iowans that the Iowa Supreme recently struck down.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Mika Covington and Aiden Vasquez who are transgender and qualify for Medicaid and whose doctors agree that they need gender-affirming surgery to treat their gender dysphoria.
The new law was passed in response to an Iowa Supreme Court unanimous decision in March 2019 that found that an Iowa Medicaid regulation that excluded coverage for medically necessary gender-affirming surgery while providing coverage for other medically necessary surgeries violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act by discriminating on the basis of gender identity. That ruling required the state to provide Medicaid coverage for medically necessary gender affirming surgery to transgender people.
In April 2019, Iowa lawmakers passed a statute to overturn this victory by amending the Iowa Civil Rights Act to take away protections for transgender people from the very kind of discrimination in access to public health care the Iowa Supreme Court had found to violate that statute one month before. The legislative record made the new law’s purpose -- to restore the ban on Medicaid coverage for transgender Iowans who need gender-affirming surgery -- abundantly clear.
Covington and Vasquez are represented by John Knight from the National ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, Rita Bettis Austin and Shefali Aurora from the ACLU of Iowa, and Seth Horvath, Tina B. Solis, and F. Thomas Hecht, Litigation Partners at the Chicago office of Nixon Peabody LLP.
Supreme Court of Iowa
Iowa District Court for Polk County