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Supreme Court Allows Ruling in Favor of California Trans Man to Stand

Evan Minton
Evan Minton courtesy ACLU

This means Evan Minton's case against Mercy San Juan Medical Center -- a hospital that denied him a hysterectomy -- can go forward.

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday declined to hear an appeal from a California Catholic hospital being sued over denial of care to a transgender man.

The high court's action leaves intact the California Court of Appeal's ruling that Evan Minton can go forward with his case against the hospital. Whether the hospital actually committed illegal discrimination has yet to be decided.

The court declined the case without comment, which is its usual practice. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch, all conservatives, said they would have taken the case.

When officials at Mercy San Juan Medical Center, a Catholic hospital near Sacramento, learned Minton was transgender, they canceled his scheduled hysterectomy shortly before it was to take place in 2016, calling it an "elective sterilization" that went against Catholic beliefs.

Minton had the hysterectomy three days later at a Methodist hospital that was part of the same chain, Dignity Health, but farther away for him. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Covington & Burling, he sued Dignity, the fifth-largest health care system in the U.S. and the largest operator of hospitals in California, alleging discrimination in violation of California's Unruh Civil Rights Act.

"Dignity Health regularly performs the medical procedure sought by Minton for patients who are not transgender," notes an ACLU press release, "and Minton's doctor at Mercy San Juan Medical Center has said this is the first time the hospital has prevented her from doing this surgery and it was clear that the surgery was canceled because Minton is transgender."

A trial court ruled that delaying the procedure for three days did not constitute discrimination under the law, but the California Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling in 2019 that Minton had shown he has grounds for a lawsuit and that his case could go forward. Dignity/Mercy San Juan appealed to the Supreme Court, saying Minton's suit "poses a profound threat to faith-based health care institutions' ability to advance their healing ministries consistent with the teachings of their faith."

Minton and the ACLU expressed satisfaction that the high court declined to review the California ruling and hope that the hospital will be held accountable. "Since Dignity Health turned me away for being transgender, I've had multiple medical emergencies and I can't stand to go to my neighboring Dignity Hospital because of the discrimination I was put through," Minton said in an ACLU release. "In one instance, I called my doctor and had them talk me through a procedure I performed on myself to avoid having to go into one of their hospitals. I hope Dignity Health will finally take responsibility for what they did to me and what they continue to do. I applaud transgender Californians and people across the country who are sharing their denial of care experiences. This should not be our private pain and shame. We deserve health care, we deserve restroom access, we deserve to play on sports teams, we deserve better. With my community by my side, I look forward to carrying on in this fight for justice."

"Dignity Health is trying to claim it's an LGBTQ-friendly organization, but when Evan needed care he was turned away because he is transgender," added Elizabeth Gill, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. "It's wrong that anyone would be turned away from health care because of who they are, and when a health care provider denies care to a population they claim to serve, that's hypocrisy. Our work does not stop with this case. Trans people belong everywhere, and we will continue to fight alongside the trans community for health care access."

Several similar lawsuits have been filed around the nation, including one filed in 2019 by another California trans man denied a hysterectomy at a Catholic hospital and one filed last week by a Missouri trans woman whose insurance provider denied her coverage for facial feminization surgery.

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