How One Law Firm Uses Religion to Discriminate

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (“Becket Fund”) has been known for its relentless lawsuits that misuse religious liberty to attack the contraceptive coverage benefit of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In their latest attempt to erode the hard fought gains of the ACA, they are now using the same tactics to undermine the nondiscrimination protections of this important piece of legislation while attacking the transgender community.

In a year when a number of bathroom bills were introduced to deny bodily autonomy to the trans community, and so far in 2016, 17 trans women of color have been murdered, these legal attacks in the guise of protecting religious liberty only further harm and demonize our transgender brothers and sisters. Many in the reproductive justice, rights, and health movements and LGBTQ liberation movement foresaw that the 2014 Hobby Lobby decision would be used to argue the denial of healthcare to many communities. Unfortunately, we were proven right. In this weeks filing, the Becket Fund, which represented Hobby Lobby stores and their owner, the Green Family, in the Hobby Lobby litigation, claimed that the nondiscrimination provision of the ACA violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”).

On Tuesday, the Becket Fund and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of religiously affiliated healthcare providers and the states of Texas, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wisconsin seeking to overturn the nondiscrimination clause of the ACA. This provision bans discrimination in health insurance and by health providers who accept federal funds. The lawsuit alleges that these religiously affiliated providers will be forced to provide transition-related medical care and abortion services against their religious beliefs. The Becket Fund and Paxton take issue with the fact that the nondiscrimination clause does not contain a religious exemption even though HHS stated in the finalized version of this rule that other federal laws, including RFRA, already protect the religious beliefs of providers.

The nondiscrimination provision of the ACA is the first time that federal law has prohibited sex discrimination in healthcare. It also prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, color, sex, including gender identity, age or disability. It is truly one of the few federal regulations that imagines how a person’s multiple identities can impact their ability to access care and coverage. For the Latinx community, particularly for transgender persons, this nondiscrimination rule can be a game changer. The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that thirty-six percent of Latinx transgender persons postponed care when they were sick or injured because they feared discrimination.

Although we may be disheartened at these turn of events, we will continue to stand in solidarity with our transgender hermanxs and proclaim that true religious liberty means salud, dignidad y justicia, for all.

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The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is the only national reproductive justice organization dedicated to building Latina power to advance health, dignity, and justice for 28 million Latinas, their families and communities in the United States through leadership development, community mobilization, policy advocacy, and strategic communications.