November 2019 Church & State Magazine - November 2019

Calif. Transgender Man Can Sue Catholic Hospital Over Denial Of Care, Court Says

  Calif. Transgender Man Can Sue Catholic Hospital Over Denial Of Care, Court Says

A transgender man has the right to sue a Catholic hospital that denied him medical care, a state court in California has ruled.

Evan Minton, who lives in the Sacramento area, made an appointment for a hysterectomy at Mercy San Juan Medical Center. The procedure was canceled at the last minute after Minton mentioned to a nurse that he is transgender.

Backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of California, Minton sued Dignity Health, the institution that owns the hospital.

Minton was assigned female sex at birth but came to identify as male as he grew up. He initiated hormone-replacement therapy in 2012, and two years later had his breasts removed. He planned the hysterectomy to precede surgery to create a penis, reported the Sacramento Bee.

Two days before the surgery, Minton told a pre-op nurse that he’s transgender. The hospital canceled the operation.

“Catholic hospitals do not perform sterilizing procedures such as hysterectomies for any patient regardless of their gender identity unless there is a serious threat to the life or health of the patient,” Dignity said in a statement.

Dignity also said that it had arranged for Minton to have the surgery at a nearby Methodist hospital. But the ACLU asserted that Dignity had violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a 1959 state law that requires all businesses in the state to serve everyone, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age and/or other factors. In 2005, the law was amended to include sexual orientation.

A San Francisco Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2017, holding that Minton had been accommodated since he was sent to another hospital. But the 1st District Court of Appeals reversed that ruling in September, holding that Minton still has a valid claim of discrimination.

The court noted that Minton had received “a startling and painful notification that the surgery would not go forward” and that this violated the Unruh Act’s guarantee of full and equal treatment.

Added the court, “[I]t cannot constitute full equality under the Unruh Act to cancel his procedure for a discriminatory purpose, wait to see if his doctor complains, and only then attempt to reschedule the procedure at a different hospital. ‘Full and equal’ access requires avoiding discrimination, not merely remedying it after it has occurred.” (Minton v. Dignity Health)

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