Lambda Legal this morning filed a federal lawsuit against the State of Alaska on behalf of Jennifer Fletcher, a state legislative librarian who was forced to pay out-of-pocket for medically necessary surgical treatment because the state health insurance plan prohibits such coverage only for transgender state employees.

"Jennifer Fletcher was denied coverage for medically necessary treatment specifically because she is transgender. This is unlawful and stigmatizing discrimination that jeopardizes the health of hardworking state employees," said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn.

"The state employee health care program – AlaskaCare – covers medically necessary treatment for all state employees except transgender employees. That’s textbook discrimination by any standard."

"The state employee health care program – AlaskaCare – covers medically necessary treatment for all state employees except transgender employees. That’s textbook discrimination by any standard."

“All that I am asking is that the State of Alaska stop discriminating against people like myself,” Fletcher said.

“My coworkers are able to receive coverage for their care, but coverage for transition-related care is denied.  This sends a clear message that the State does not value me, and does not consider me equal to its other employees, by forcing me to pay out of pocket for my medically necessary care.  How is this not discriminatory, when equivalent care is routinely provided to other state employees?”

Jennifer Fletcher is 36-year-old resident of Juneau, Alaska, who works as a legislative librarian for the State of Alaska. She has been working for Alaska since 2012 and was promoted to legislative librarian in 2014.

Assigned male sex at birth, she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2014.  In consultation with health care professionals, Fletcher started hormone therapy and transitioned to living openly as the woman that she is.

The AlaskaCare plan contains a blanket exclusion of transition-related surgical treatment, which has existed in the plan since at least 1979. Because of the exclusion, Fletcher had to pay out of her own pocket for surgical treatment in 2017. 

Beginning in 2018, the AlaskaCare plan began covering transition-related hormone therapy, recognizing that such treatment is medically necessary, but continues to categorically prohibit coverage for transition-related surgical treatment, even though it can also be medically necessary.

In its lawsuit, Lambda Legal argues that the State of Alaska is violating the sex discrimination prohibition of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In March, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that the State of Alaska had violated Title VII.

"Whether your insurance will cover medically necessary treatment should not depend on who you are," added Lambda Legal Counsel Tara Borelli.

“The State itself recognizes that transition-related care is medically necessary, which is why it covers hormone therapy. The only reason for this lingering blanket exclusion against surgical treatment is irrational discrimination.”

All mainstream medical associations including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association recognize that transition-related surgical treatment can be medically necessary for an individual. The AMA and other medical organizations have called for an end to discriminatory exclusions of medical care in public and private health insurance policies.

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of an anti-gay baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in a test of the country’s religious freedom laws. The court ruled 7-2 in favor of the baker.

Only Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor opposed the narrow ruling in favor of the baker.

The narrow ruling does not grant Christians a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people, but instead is tailored to specifically address the case that was in front of the court.

In this case, plaintiffs alleged that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed animus against baker Jack Phillips instead of ruling impartially. Members of the commission had suggested that Phillips was claiming religious freedom specifically so he could discriminate, and had not given a fair consideration to the bakery’s claims.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote in most other LGBT cases that have come before the court in recent years, voted with the majority and wrote the ruling.

Today’s ruling chips aways at one of America’s most basic values for the last 50 years – the freedom to expect that a business will serve all customers without discrimination.

While the Court’s decision does not create a new license to discriminate, it also does not address the discrimination that millions of Americans still face. In more than half the country, our state laws do not explicitly protect LGBT Americans from discrimination in stores and restaurants, in the workplace, or in housing.

“The court reversed the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on concerns unique to the case but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people.” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU.

Experts expect religious right groups to try to use the ruling to undermine local and state nondiscrimination protections nationwide.

“This case was never just about a wedding cake. It was about all people– no matter who they are – having the right to celebrate their love without facing discrimination,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in an emailed statement.

“The Democratic Party believes that no individual has a license to discriminate. We believe in the dignity of every human being. And we will continue to fight for equality for LGBTQ people in all areas of our society – from housing and health care, to bathrooms and boardrooms, to bakeries and the ballot box.”

Today, HRC is proud to kick off National LGBTQ Pride Month, a time when we honor our history and recommit to resisting anti-equality forces working to undo our hard-earned progress.

Our History

Pride month coincides with the anniversary of the famous Stonewall Riots in New York City. On June 28, 1969, when New York City police began again harassing LGBTQ patrons of the Stonewall Inn simply for congregating, those patrons decided they’d had enough. LGBTQ activists stood up and bravely fought back. From those early demonstrations grew a modern social movement determined to rid the nation of discrimination against all LGBTQ Americans.

Taking Action

In 2018, LGBTQ advocates and allies continue to fight for full equality across the nation under the Trump-Pence administration’s hateful policies and rhetoric, while defending the hard-fought progress we’ve made over the years.

We aren’t just resisting at the federal level, we are fighting back against anti-LGBTQ state legislators attempting to undermine the fundamental civil rights of LGBTQ people across America. We have been going on offense with HRC Rising - our largest grassroots expansion ever -- because we simply can't afford to wait. Never underestimate the power of your voice and actions to create change.

Click here to find a Pride event in your area and join HRC and thousands of others to celebrate  LGBTQ progress and equality while also checking to make sure you’re registered to vote.

Text UNITE to 30644 to join HRC’s Mobile Action Network. Participate with our vast legion of supporters to help mobilize your community to change hearts and minds across the country by becoming an HRC volunteer.

Though Stonewall’s legacy is cemented in history, LGBTQ progress remains under attack in the Trump-Pence era. HRC takes inspiration from the brave members of our community who stood up for themselves -- and all of us -- at Stonewall, and is committed to ensuring all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are treated equally and with dignity under the law.

Celebrating on Social Media

Use the hashtags #Pride, #Pride2018, #LoveIsLove, #LoveWins and #PrideParade in one of fifteen languages to unlock special Pride emojis on Twitter.

Make sure you rise up, speak up and show up this Pride month, and in November to make your voice is heard at the ballot box.

HRC is celebrating the passage of 10 pro-equality state bills during the first half of 2018. At the peak of legislative activity this year, 43 state legislatures were in session. Since the beginning of the year, HRC has been tracking more than 112 anti-LGBTQ bills and 185 pro-equality bills. As the November elections approach, only 16 state legislatures remain in session.

Of the 10 pro-equality bills passed by state legislatures, six have already been signed into law and four await gubernatorial action.

Four of the 10 bills are designed to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy,” which has been proven to pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. Every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and American Medical Association, condemn the practice.

In Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy signed SB 13, a bill allowing transgender inmates to be housed according to their identity and ensuring they will be searched by officers matching their gender, have their pronouns respected and have access to clothing and toiletries matching their gender.

Last Friday in Hawaii, Governor David Ige signed SB 270, an anti-conversion therapy bill.

Earlier this month, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed SB 1028, a similar anti-conversion therapy bill.

In April, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed SB 2371, a broad criminal justice reform bill that includes a provision prohibiting the placement of LGBTQ prisoners in solitary confinement solely due to their identity.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed H. 333, a bill requiring a single-user restroom to be identified by a sign that marks the facility as a restroom and does not indicate any specific gender.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 5722 in March, making it the first anti-conversion therapy bill to become law in 2018.

In New Hampshire, two pro-LGBTQ bills await action by Governor Chris Sununu: HB 587, an anti-conversion therapy bill, and HB 1319, a non-discrimination bill for transgender people. HB 1319 would update the state’s laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public spaces to explicitly include protections based on gender identity.

In New Jersey, two bills related to gender markers and gender identity on birth and death certificates were passed and sent to Governor Phil Murphy. S. 478, a birth certificate gender marker update bill, modernizes the process for updating one's birth certificate gender marker by removing the current surgical requirement. S.493, a death certificate gender identity bill, clarifies that the sex of the decedent is to be recorded on their death certificate so as to accurately reflect the decedent’s gender identity. It also creates a process for accurately determining and recording the gender identity of the decedent if conflicting information exists.

Unfortunately, two anti-LGBTQ bills have also been signed into law so far this year. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed SB 1140, a bill that would allow child welfare organizations -- including adoption and foster care agencies -- to turn away qualified Oklahomans seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection. Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer signed SB 284, which is a license to discriminate with taxpayer funds against prospective LGBTQ foster or adoptive parents, single parents, or other qualified families.

HRC continues to work with partners, allies and advocates across the country to pass pro-equality legislation and defeat anti-LGBTQ bills.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – For transgender people who want to serve in the military, the law itself is in transition. The future careers of thousands of service members are still in limbo after a federal judge temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s effort to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

New Mexico Navy veteran and transwoman Penn Baker is disappointed that there is still a fight over who can and can't serve their country.

Baker is the president of the New Mexico chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights. After leaving the Navy in 1970, Baker never stopped fighting for her peers who for years had to hide their true selves if they wanted to openly enlist.

"We fought desperately to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,'" Baker said. "We've been successful with that, and now we're fighting desperately to fight transgender personnel to serve openly."

Baker worked on a nuclear submarine in the Navy from 1963 until 1970s during the Vietnam War. During that time, Baker hid her true gender identity under the surface.

"Why would we disgrace those people if they're willing to serve our country?" Baker said.

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