A California transgender man who was turned away from a Catholic hospital will be able to pursue a claim of discrimination thanks to action by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court issued an order Nov. 1 announcing it would not hear another appeal of Evan Minton’s case. The action means that a lower court ruling in Minton’s favor will stand.
Minton, who lives in the Sacramento area, made an appointment for a hysterectomy at Mercy San Juan Medical Center. The hospital is part of Dignity Health, a system owned by the Catholic Church. 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.
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.
Dignity officials insisted that the procedure was a sterilizing 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, holding that Minton still has a valid claim of discrimination.
“[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,” observed the court. “‘Full and equal’ access requires avoiding discrimination, not merely remedying it after it has occurred.”
“Dignity Health is trying to claim it’s an LGBTQ-friendly organization but when Evan needed care he was turned away because he is transgender,” Elizabeth Gill, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, told the Los Angeles Blade. “It’s wrong that anyone would be turned away from health care because of who they are, and when a health care provider denies care to a population they claim to serve, that’s hypocrisy.” (Minton v. Dignity Health)