US Supreme Court quashes Catholic hospital’s appeal after denying trans man vital surgery

Same-sex marriage supporter Vin Testa, of Washington DC, waves a rainbow pride flag near the Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from a Catholic hospital that was sued for denying a hysterectomy to a trans man.

The patient, Evan Minton, scheduled a hysterectomy at the Mercy San Juan Medical Center in California in 2016 as part of his gender transition. But when he told a nurse he was trans, the hospital suddenly cancelled the surgery.

Minton was able to get the treatment he needed at another facility but went on to sue in state court, accusing the hospital of violating a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The hospital claimed it does not discriminate against trans patients, but the Supreme Court heard that it routinely performed hysterectomies on cis women and that Minton’s surgery was cancelled simply because he was transgender.

On Monday (1 November) the Supreme Court justices turned down an appeal from hospital owners Dignity Health and let stand a lower court ruling that revived Minton’s lawsuit in 2019.

This ruling rejected the hospital’s argument that forcing it to perform procedures contrary to its religious beliefs would violate First Amendment rights, and held that Minton could pursue a claim for discrimination.

The Supreme Court’s decision was welcomed by Elizabeth Gill, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT+ and HIV Project.

“Dignity Health is trying to claim it’s an LGBTQ-friendly organisation but when Evan needed care he was turned away because he is transgender,” she said in a statement.

“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.”

Conservative justices Thomas Alito, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have considered the case in the Supreme Court, but they were overruled.

The lawsuit now goes back to the California courts, where Minton looks forward to continuing his fight for justice.

“Since Dignity Health turned me away for being transgender, I’ve had multiple medical emergencies and I can’t stand to go to my neighbouring Dignity Hospital because of the discrimination I was put through,” he said.

“In one instance, I called my doctor and had them talk me through a procedure I performed on myself to avoid having to go into one of their hospitals. I hope Dignity Health will finally take responsibility for what they did to me and what they continue to do.”

He continued: “I applaud transgender Californians and people across the country who are sharing their denial of care experiences. This should not be our private pain and shame. We deserve health care, we deserve restroom access, we deserve to play on sports teams, we deserve better.

“With my community by my side, I look forward to carrying on in this fight for justice.”