A U.S. court has temporarily blocked Biden administration mandates that forced non- and for-profit employers to pay for sex change surgeries and hormone therapy.
The mandates were put forth by two federal agencies, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The Christian Employers Alliance sued the government in 2021, arguing the government was misinterpreting the Affordable Care Act and that mandates would harm religious employers that “hold sincerely held religious beliefs that such gender transition surgeries and procedures are morally wrong.”
The alliance, which is made up of Christian employers, also asked for a preliminary injunction, or a temporary block of the mandates. A halt to the mandates was needed because of the risk of liability, it said.
In the new ruling, U.S. District Judge Daniel Traynor, a Trump appointee, agreed.
“Compliance with the mandate requires the plaintiff and its members to violate their religious beliefs, convictions, and practices. This is an irreparable injury,” he wrote in an 18-page order.
The judge rejected the Biden administration’s claim that the mandates don’t actually exist, noting that recent HHS guidance says that a parent should file a complaint if a medical provider refuses to help with the gender transition of their child, regardless of the child’s age.
“The thought that a newborn child could be surgically altered to change gender is the result of the Biden HHS notification and HHS guidance that brands a medical professional’s refusal to do so as discrimination,” wrote. “Indeed, the HHS Guidance specifically invites the public to file complaints for acting in a manner the Alliance says is consistent with their sincerely held religious beliefs. The Alliance must either violate its sincerely held beliefs or face monetary losses, fines, and even civil liabilities.”
Both the EEOC and HHAS are barred from enforcing the mandates against the alliance until the merits of the case are decided.
“All employers and healthcare providers, including those in the Christian Employers Alliance, have the constitutional right to conduct their business and render treatment in a manner consistent with their deeply held religious beliefs,” Jacob Reed, a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom who is representing the alliance, said in a statement.
“The employers we represent believe that God purposefully created humans as either male or female, and so it would violate their religious beliefs to pay for or perform life-altering medical procedures or surgeries that seek to change one’s biological sex. The court was on firm ground to halt enforcement of these unlawful mandates that disrespect people of faith,” he added.
The mandates stem from the government’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex, with the agencies interpreting discriminating against people who think they’re a different sex and want procedures to change themselves as under the prohibition.
HHS, for instance, said discrimination includes “sex stereotyping,” which includes the stereotype that people “will consistently identify with only one gender and that they will act in conformity with the gender-related expressions stereotypically associated with that gender.”
The agency, which regulates health care providers and insurers, forbade insurers and administrators from offering plans without coverage for gender transitions, or sex-change surgeries and related procedures and therapies.
The requirements were narrowed by the Trump administration but the Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that “discrimination based on homosexuality or transgender status necessarily entails discrimination based on sex” and President Joe Biden in early 2021 issued an executive order directing agencies to bar discrimination “on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.” HHS soon issued new guidance that encouraged people to file complaints if children were denied “gender affirming care,” or procedures helping them transition to a different sex.