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January 24, 2019

The ACLU, ACLU of Arizona and Phoenix law firm Aiken Schenk Hawkins & Ricciardi P.C. filed a class action lawsuit Wednesday against the State of Arizona and the Arizona Board of Regents for denying medically necessary, gender-confirming healthcare to transgender people employed by the state.

Every major medical organization recognizes that gender-confirming surgery and other transition-related care is safe, effective and medically necessary for gender dysphoria. But the Arizona state employee health plan has a blanket exclusion for gender-confirming surgery and transgender people are not offered the opportunity to demonstrate that their transition-related surgery is medically necessary. The lawsuit alleges the exclusion unlawfully discriminates against transgender people in violation of federal civil rights statutes and the Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dr. Russell B. Toomey, an associate professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona, and all other transgender individuals employed by the Arizona Board of Regents or enrolled in the State health plan, including dependents. Because of the state’s discriminatory health plan, he has been unable to have a gender-confirming procedure recommended by his physician in accordance with the widely accepted standards of care for treating gender dysphoria.

“I filed this lawsuit because I have been unable to access a medically necessary procedure as a result of the state’s discriminatory health plan,” Dr. Toomey said. “I do not want any other transgender employee or dependent, current or future, to suffer with anxiety in the way that I have because of this policy. I love my job at the University of Arizona and I really want to live in a state that treats all employees and their dependents equally.”

“No one should be denied medically necessary care because of who they are,” said ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Kathy Brody. “Transgender people are part of our community, our families and our workplaces, and they deserve the same benefits Arizona affords everyone else.”

The lawsuit asks the court to remove the health plan’s exclusion for gender-confirming surgery. It also seeks the opportunity for all transgender state employees and dependents to have their claims for transition-related surgery evaluated as medically necessary under the same standards and procedures the health plan applies to other medical treatments.

“Many transgender people are prescribed transition-related surgery to treat their gender dysphoria and help them live authentically,” said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project. “In some cases, transition-related surgery can be life-saving. Arizona’s current health plan unfairly covers many of the same procedures for cisgender employees, but unlawfully singles out transgender employees for unequal treatment.”

The complaint filed today in Toomey v. Arizona is available here: http://bit.ly/2CHWzay

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