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Federal judge says lawsuit filed by Georgia sheriff’s deputy over lack of transgender insurance coverage can move forward

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 10/30/2020 Muri Assunção

A federal judge in Georgia said Friday that a discrimination lawsuit filed by a transgender sheriff’s deputy over health care coverage can move forward.

U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell denied a request by Houston County, Ga. officials to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Sgt. Anna Lange in Oct. 2019 challenging the exclusion of transgender-related health care from the county’s employee health plan.

Lange, a 23-year veteran of law enforcement, is a deputy sheriff in the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, where she has worked since 2006.

a woman smiling and posing for the camera: Anna Lange © Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Anna Lange

Anna Lange (Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund/)

After coming out as a transgender woman in 2017, she began horomone therapy, and started changing her appearance to match her gender identity.

As part of her transition, she also requires doctor-recommended gender-transition treatment for gender dysphoria, a medical condition that results from the disconnect between her sex assigned at birth and her gender identity — which includes gender confirmation surgery.

Unfortunately she was denied coverage for the procedure because her employee health plan, explicitly excludes coverage for transgender care.

After repeatedly asking Houston County to remove the exclusion from the health plan — unsuccessfully — she filed a lawsuit “about the denial of equal benefits for equal work.”

Oct. 2, 2019, attorneys with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund argued that Houston County officials were violating the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by unlawfully discriminating based on sex, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On Friday, Judge Treadwell wrote in a 37-page opinion that if Lange’s claims are proven at trial, then both Houston County and Sheriff Cullen Talton have violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

“As a result of Judge Treadwell’s decision, Sgt. Lange will have the opportunity to prove that the exclusion of medically necessary care for the treatment of gender dysphoria under Houston County’s health plan is unlawful and violates her constitutional and statutory rights under Title VII and the ADA,” Wes Powell, one of the attorneys representing Lange, said in a statement.

“We look forward to vigorously pursuing her claims and putting an end to this blatant discrimination against a dedicated law enforcement officer,” he added.

“I’ve dedicated more than twenty years of my career to serving my community and I have never asked for or wanted special treatment for being my authentic self,” Sgt. Lange, after hearing Friday’s ruling.

“Since day one, this lawsuit has simply been about challenging the county’s illegal exclusion that prevents me from getting the medically-necessary care that I need. Today’s decision means that transgender Southerners like myself are one step closer to receiving the equal and fair health care access that everyone is guaranteed under the law,” she added.

Dates for a trial where she will prove her case to a jury are yet to be announced.

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