Judge finally blocks Donald Trump from rolling back transgender healthcare protections at the 11th hour

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A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Donald Trump administration’s plans to roll back existing healthcare protections for trans patients.

Federal judge Frederic Block issued a preliminary injunction against Trump’s plans on Monday (18 August), just one day before the new regulations were due to come into effect.

Block said that the new regulation to remove discrimination protections for trans people in healthcare settings could violate the Supreme Court’s historic June ruling that made it illegal to fire workers for being gay or trans.

The preliminary injunction from the district court judge bars the Trump administration from enforcing the new regulations – which it finalised in the days after the Supreme Court’s ruling – until the case can be decided on in court.

“When the Supreme Court announces a major decision, it seems a sensible thing to pause and reflect on the decision’s impact,” Block wrote in his order, suggesting the department of health and human services (HHS) may want to reconsider.

“Since HHS has been unwilling to take that path voluntarily, the court now imposes it,” Block added.

The HHS rule sought to overturn Obama-era healthcare protections for trans people, which rely on a broader understanding of sex and gender to include trans people within discrimination protections on the basis of sex – an understanding backed by the Supreme Court in its recent ruling.

In both the HHS regulation and its losing argument in the Supreme Court, the Donald Trump administration wanted to remove protections for trans people by relying on the idea that sex is determined by biology and is not changeable.

The HHS rule was seen as a signal to Trump’s social and religious conservative supporters that his administration was still on their side following the shock Supreme Court loss, a victory for LGBT+ campaigners.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision in favour of protecting LGBT+ workers was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s conservative appointee to the Supreme Court.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Gorsuch wrote. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguiseable role in the decision, exactly what (civil rights law) forbids.”

The case against the HHS regulations is being brought by the Human Rights Campaign on behalf of two trans women, one an Army veteran and the other a writer.

The HHS argument that its rule is legally valid is, Judge Block said, “disingenuous”. He added that the agency had acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in enacting it.