County of Santa Clara and City of Chicago Lead Broad Coalition to Defend LGBTQ Patient Protections in the Affordable Care Act

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. (August 7, 2020) — Today, the County of Santa Clara and City of Chicago filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of a nationwide coalition of 31 local governments defending the rights of LGBTQ people to access health care without fear of discrimination.  The brief urges a federal court to block a Trump Administration rule change under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would eliminate nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in health care settings.

The Trump Administration’s rule, which is scheduled to go into effect on August 18, removes explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex stereotyping.  The rule came only a few days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision holding that discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is unlawful sex-based discrimination.

“Limiting access to health care is just wrong – plain and simple,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian, Chair of the County's Health and Hospital Committee.  “The Administration’s removal of sexual orientation and gender identity from the definition of prohibited sex discrimination when updating Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act Rules is unconscionable.  And it’s illegal.  I’m pleased that our County is going to push back."

The rule is projected to affect 1.4 million transgender adults and 150,000 transgender teens, including as many as 3,500 transgender patients in Santa Clara County.

“The proposed rule change would not just undermine the good work done by the Affordable Care Act and responsible governments, it could also expose members of our own community, especially those who identify as LGBTQ+, to degrading, objectionable, and unacceptable treatment when seeking life-saving healthcare and will fan the flames of fear and distrust of healthcare providers rooted in the legacy of discrimination the LGBTQ+ community has faced,” said Supervisor Susan Ellenberg.  “All people are deserving of protection from discrimination, especially when it comes to matters of health.”

“The Trump Administration’s rule is an unlawful assault on LGBTQ people and the public health of our communities,” said Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams.  “To strip away these nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people is senseless and shameful at any time—but all the more so during a global pandemic.  The health of our country depends, now more than ever, on the ability of all individuals to access quality health services without fear.  We urge the court to block this patently illegal and irresponsible rule.”

The amicus curiae brief supports the State of Washington’s motion for preliminary injunction filed in federal court in the Western District of Washington.  The brief argues that the Final Rule is inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and would undermine the efforts that local governments have undertaken to build trust with the LGBTQ community, overcome barriers to accessing healthcare, and address the harms of discrimination that still occur despite local and state legal protections.

A diverse coalition of local jurisdictions joined the County of Santa Clara and the City of Chicago in the amicus brief.  Signatories include: Albuquerque, NM; Austin, TX; Carrboro, NC; Columbus, OH; Cook County, IL; Dayton, OH; Driggs, ID; Duluth, MN; Everett, WA; Howard County, MD; Houston, TX; Los Angeles City, CA; County of Los Angeles, CA; Middletown. CT; New York, NY; Oakland, CA; Portland, OR; Pulaski County, AR; San Francisco, CA; Saint Paul, MN; Santa Cruz City, CA; Santa Cruz County, CA; King County & Public Health – Seattle & King County, WA; Seattle, WA; Somerville, MA; State College, PA; Tacoma, WA; Travis County, TX; West Hollywood, CA.

Local Government Amicus Brief, Washington v. HHS.pdf

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About the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office

The Office of the County Counsel serves as legal counsel to the County of Santa Clara, its Board of Supervisors and elected officials, every County department and agency, and the County’s boards and commissions. With a staff of over 200, the Office is also responsible for all civil litigation involving the County and its officers. Through its Social Justice and Impact Litigation Section, the Office litigates high-impact cases, drafts innovative local ordinances, and develops policies and programs to advance social and economic justice.

About the County of Santa Clara, California

The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, California – more populous than 14 states. The County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many other public benefits.

About the Social Justice and Impact Litigation Section

The Social Justice and Impact Litigation Section within the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office litigates high-impact cases, drafts innovative local ordinances, and develops new policies and programs to advance the County’s goal of achieving social and economic justice for all its residents. The Section also defends the County in select cases with the potential to significantly affect the County’s ability to provide critical safety net services to vulnerable residents. The Section is part of a growing movement to use the power and unique perspective of local government to better serve the community and to drive long-lasting change at the local, state, and national levels.

Posted: August 7, 2020


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