Arizona agrees to pay for gender-affirming surgery for public employees

Lawmakers in WASHINGTON, Arizona, said they were disappointed that the state agreed to pay for gender-affirming surgeries for state employees in a consent decree that resolves years of class-action litigation brought by a University of Arizona professor. .

The consent decree, approved last week by a federal district court judge in Tucson, comes months after Gov. Katie Hobbs issued an executive order reversing a previous state policy that banned the procedures as part of the state’s health insurance plan. Supporters said the court order will have the effect of making Hobbs’ order permanent.

Russell Toomey, a professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona who filed the lawsuit, said he felt immeasurable relief after Hobbs’ June 27 executive order but was thrilled to see the consent decree.

Finding out that the federal judge in my case ordered the permanent removal of the exclusion of gender-affirming surgical care from our health insurance for state employees provides even greater relief, Toomey said in a statement.

But the decision was criticized by legislative leaders who attempted to intervene in the case, which they said would violate the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches by infringing on the authority of lawmakers. U.S. District Judge Rosemary Marquez rejected the attempt by Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma

They also argued that the consent decree could impact a state law that took effect this year banning irreversible sex reassignment surgery for any individual under 18 years of age, a law that was sponsored by Petersen.

Sex reassignment surgeries should never be performed on children and certainly not as part of the state’s health care plan, Petersen said in a statement Thursday. I am very disappointed that the court order did not clarify this, and I am shocked that the governor’s administration pushed for this.

Toomey, a transgender man, filed the lawsuit in 2019 after the state refused to cover the cost of a full hysterectomy he sought to treat his gender dysphoria. The state’s health plan at the time allowed some treatments for gender dysphoria, but specifically prohibited gender reassignment surgery, even when the surgery was considered medically necessary.

Toomey claimed the policy violated his civil rights under Title VII and his 14th Amendment equal protection rights. Marquez certified the civil rights portion of the case as a class action.

After two years of legal wrangling, both sides asked to suspend the case while they negotiated a possible settlement.

Those negotiations were still ongoing when Hobbs issued his executive order on June 27, ordering the removal of the ban on sex reassignment surgery in state health coverage. In her order, she pointed to a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court case, Bostock v. Clayton County, which said that discrimination against a person because they are transgender necessarily constitutes discrimination against that person on the basis of sex.

Christine Wee, senior attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, who represented Toomey, called last week’s consent decree a victory for all state officials, defeating this clear violation of federal civil rights law once and for all.

This will benefit trans state employees in Arizona. But this will truly benefit all Arizonans because the heart of this case is simply equal access to health care, Wee said.

But critics said the decree will end up hurting taxpayers with the surgery bill, which some say could have negative long-term impacts.

Taxpayers should not be forced to fund experimental surgeries and drugs, said a statement from Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy. She accused the Hobbs administration of doubling down on an ideologically driven agenda.

Wee called these arguments simply incorrect and inaccurate,

Over the nearly five years this case has worked its way through the court system, we’ve learned that this actually won’t cost taxpayers much money, if at all, she said. We learned through questioning state officials who were part of the Arizona Department of Administration that the cost was actually not very high.

While he was disappointed with the decree, Petersen pointed to at least one victory: Toomey’s legal team, which included lawyers from the New York-based law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, had originally asked for $500,000 in legal fees, but Márquez reduced the award to $375,000. .

However, I am grateful that our arguments saved $125,000 in taxpayer dollars from being paid to out-of-state radical left law firms,” Petersen’s statement said.



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