Last week, a federal ruling in North Dakota flew under the radar that allows Catholic medical professionals, hospitals and organizations the right to refuse performing or providing insurance coverage for gender transition procedures, or insurance coverage for gender transition drugs, if it violates their religious beliefs.
The ruling was on a 2016 lawsuit filed by the Catholic Benefits Association – an association of 65 Catholic Diocese and 1,100 Catholic church affiliates and private business owners – against the United States Department of Health and Human Services over what is known as the “transgender mandate” of the Affordable Care Act.
“This ruling is a very important victory protecting doctors and hospitals that allows them to continue providing top notch care to everyone in accordance with their best medical judgement and religious beliefs,” Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty law firm told Crux.
The decision covers all current and future members of the Catholic Benefits Association. It also covers the Sisters of Mercy, the University of Mary in North Dakota and Sisters of Mary of the Presentation Health System in North Dakota.
The Becket Fund filed a separate lawsuit against the “transgender mandate” on behalf of the latter three organizations in 2016. The judge eventually consolidated the two lawsuits.
In addition, the ruling prevents the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from issuing similar mandates or enforcement actions based on how it interprets sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The statute prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and sex. In a conversation with Crux, Doug Wilson, CEO of the Catholic Benefits Association, said it’s “exceptionally important” that the EEOC and Title VII were included.
“If Health and Human Services couldn’t enforce the (Transgender Mandate) we felt they would look to the EEOC to make employment rules that mandated participation. Then we further thought that based on discrimination action Title VII might be brought in,” Wilson said.
After Joe Biden’s inauguration, he signed an executive order directing all federal agencies to implement a 2020 Supreme Court decision that found Title VII covers LGBTQ individuals.
Last week, several prelates including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City spoke out against the order in a statement, stating “it threatens to infringe the rights of people who recognize the truth of sexual difference or who uphold the institution of lifelong marriage between one man and one woman.”