Federal Lawsuit Accuses Tennessee of Discrimination Over Transgender Care Exclusions


Tennessee is about to face a lawsuit from two women, Gerda Zinner and Story VanNess, over its public employee health insurance plans which explicitly exclude coverage for gender-affirming care.

After their insurance claims for operations meant to cure gender dysphoria were denied, Zinner and VanNess learned of a coverage gap. In a news conference on Thursday, VanNess highlighted the significant effects of gender dysphoria by discussing the difficulty they’ve had in locating healthcare that gives them adequate access.

Tennessee and Others to Face Lawsuit Accusing Them of Discrimination

According to the source, Commercial Appeal, the plaintiffs contend that the state’s health insurance regulations are both discriminatory and illegal in that they restrict procedures that would normally be covered, with the exception of those “for, or related to, sex transformations.”

VanNess, who taught special education at a Knox County public school from 2016 to 2022, and Zinner, a university adviser in Chattanooga, both used the state of Tennessee’s public employee health benefits program as a result of their employment. To secure proper healthcare for transgender public employees, they are currently advocating for a change in policy.

The two women named the defendants, which include the state of Tennessee itslef, also the University of Tennessee, the Knox County Board of Education, and several Tennessee insurance committees. The lawsuit claims discrimination because public employee health insurance plans do not cover gender-affirming care.

The Attorney General’s office was represented by Elizabeth Lane, who expressed interest in reviewing the pending lawsuit and vehemently defending the state’s position. The University of Tennessee System, in contrast, made the decision to remain silent regarding the ongoing lawsuit. However, they insisted that its staff members are given the chance to enroll in the state’s health insurance programs. In August 2022, both women submitted sex discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

Also Read:Nebraska Lawmakers Pass Bill Limiting Abortion and Transgender Healthcare Access for Minors

Transgender Rights Lawsuits Challenge State Discrimination and Healthcare Exclusions

In the article in Advocate, it stated that the Equal Protection Clause of the United States was allegedly violated by Tennessee officials, according to the lawsuit. By participating in illegal discrimination based on sex and transgender status in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to Darren Teshima, a partner at Covington & Burling LLP, which is representing the lawsuit alongside TLDEF and other attorneys, federal laws protect transgender people from sex-based workplace discrimination. The lawsuit aims to stop the State of Tennessee and its affiliates from improperly excluding transition-related treatment from employee health care plans. They expressed their happiness and dedication in working together to help their clients.

Other Republican-dominated states with anti-transgender laws in place are also facing challenges. According to the shared article in Yahoo! News, some of these states have advanced anti-transgender laws over time. A trial court in North Carolina mandated that the state provide “medically necessary services,” such as hormone therapy and certain operations, for transgender workers and their offspring. An appeal has been made to the Fourth U.S. The case has been consolidated with a related dispute in West Virginia by the Circuit Court of Appeals. No decision were still made as of the moment.

Related Article:Nebraska Conservatives Take Risk by Merging Abortion, Trans Health Bans in Legislation

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