ACLU Sues University of Maryland Hospital for Turning Away Transgender Man

July 17, 2020 4:45 pm

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BALTIMORE — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday alleging that University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center turned away Jesse Hammons for a commonly performed medical care simply because he is transgender. The taxpayer-owned hospital claims that providing Hammons with medical care would be a violation of their religious beliefs.

Hammons was scheduled to undergo a medically necessary hysterectomy at the medical center as part of his gender-affirming care plan. A week before the surgery was scheduled to take place, the medical center informed Hammons surgery that the surgery had to be cancelled because it violated the medical center’s Catholic religious beliefs. The medical center was operated as a Catholic hospital until the University of Maryland Medical System purchased the hospital in 2012. Hammons was able to receive gender-affirming care in July through a different medical provider.

“I was shocked when I learned that the hospital cancelled my surgery just because I am transgender,” said Jesse Hammons, who works at a local community college and is studying to become an American Sign Language interpreter. “The hospital will perform hysterectomies for everyone else, but they did not think that my life, as a man who is transgender, is equally worthy of protection. While no one should be turned away from health care because of who they are, the fact that this institution is part of the University of Maryland Medical System makes it particularly painful.”

“The government has no business running a religious hospital,” said Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Block with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. “The Supreme Court has been clear that a government-controlled corporation like UMMS must comply with the Constitution. A governmental entity cannot deny medical care based on religious beliefs, and it cannot discriminate against transgender people by denying them health care that is available to everyone else.”

In recent years, multiple courts have ruled in favor of ACLU clients who have been denied health care for being transgender. The Supreme Court recently ruled that discrimination against transgender people in employment is an unlawful form of sex discrimination. The Trump administration has attempted to undermine those decisions through a rollback nondiscrimination provisions of the Health Care Rights Law, known as section 1557. The lawsuit filed today says turning Hammons away was a violation of this federal law, in addition to the Constitution.

The subject of taxpayer-funded institutions and discrimination will be before the Supreme Court this fall in a case involving Philadelphia’s foster care system and a religiously-affiliated agency with a government contract.

“Discrimination is not a part of religious liberty,” said Rev. Lura Groen, Hammons’ wife. “As Jesse’s spouse, I see the pain discrimination — and the fear of discrimination — causes on a daily basis. As a faith leader and taxpayer, I am appalled that this act was done at a government institution and in the name of religion.”

Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP and Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP serve as co-counsel in this case. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and an acknowledgement that the Medical Center broke the law when it denied Hammons medical care.

Case documents are available here:

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