LGBTQ Dispute Leads Catholic Healthcare System to Withdraw Support for Local Theater

A Catholic hospital group withdrew its sponsorship of a theater in Sacramento, California in response to concerns that the health system discriminated against members of the LGBTQ community.

The Sacramento LGBTQ community raised concerns about the sponsorship because Dignity Health, a Catholic hospital conglomerate which operates a number of Catholic hospitals, has refused to provide medical treatment, care, and services for LGBTQ people. Dignity Health is governed by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, prescriptions written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that determine which medical services conform to Catholic doctrine. Since procedures such as tubal ligations, contraception, gender transition care, physician-assisted dying, and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) contravene these guidelines, they can denied.

Administrators from Dignity Health reached a mutual understanding with Broadway Sacramento, formerly known as California Musical Theater, to explore other ways for the hospital to support the theater’s performing arts program.

The Sacramento Bee reported that “Dignity Health has faced condemnation and lawsuits from transgender individuals facing denials for gender-affirming surgery and from women who are limited in what reproductive procedures they can receive at the company’s Catholic hospitals.”

For example, Evan Minton, a transgender man, brought a cause of action against Dignity Health in 2017 when the hospital canceled his hysterectomy procedure two days before the scheduled surgery.  On appeal, the court held that Minton’s case would proceed.

Minton became distressed when he learned of the planned partnership between the hospital conglomerate and the local theater group, saying, “I’ve been anguish, and my community has been in anguish ever since the announcement of this partnership.”

Minton was consequently relieved when Broadway Sacramento decided that it was in the best interest of the LGBTQ community to remove Dignity Health’s sponsorship.

Although Dignity Health adheres to the Catholic directives, hospital administrators have highlighted Dignity Health’s legacy of inclusion and equality of the LGBTQ community:

“[Dignity Health was] among the first to offer services in response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and that Dignity recently partnered with World Professional Association for Transgender Health to hold a conference on transgender care called the Gender Institute in San Francisco. Company officials also noted that Dignity leaders ensured that Minton was able to get his surgery at one of the company’s non-Catholic hospitals.”

Minton and other LGBTQ activists also protested a proposed partnership between Dignity Health and the health care unit of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). However, UCSF abruptly halted the proposal in response to similar concerns of medical discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen, an LGBTQ advocate, wholeheartedly supported the concerns raised by his constituents. While Hansen agreed that Dignity Health has contributed positively to the LGBTQ community, their discriminatory actions based on religious doctrine are troubled him.

Moving forward, Hansen mentioned that he would work with the mayor, other local leaders, and the LGBTQ community to secure another sponsor for Broadway Sacramento.

While religious hospital administrators and LGBTQ advocates alike can appreciate the historical legacy that Dignity Health played during the AIDS epidemic, it does not diminish its current stance of medical discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

Moreover, Dignity Health’s understanding of inclusion and equality is completely misguided if it believes that helping a transgender patient find another facility for their gender reassignment surgery assuages the emotional and psychological suffering it caused by abruptly canceling the scheduled procedure in the first place.

The growing number of organizations severing their sponsorship and affiliations with Dignity Health will hopefully convey that the religious hospital group needs to amend its discriminatory medical policies and procedures.  It is the only solution to become a genuine advocate for the LGBTQ community and to any patient seeking professional medical care and treatment.   

Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, January 4, 2020

1 reply
  1. DON E SIEGAL
    DON E SIEGAL says:

    LGBTQ Dispute Leads Catholic Healthcare System to Withdraw Support for Local Theater

    If this were the only issue this blog essay presented, the answer would be very easy. Religious institutions need to think out thoroughly what secular civic activities they would like to sponsor. Recently, our Dioceses of Fresno became a corporate sponsor of our local NPR radio station. It was clear to me that this would likely lead to a conflict of interest. While none publicly occurred, the sponsorship was not renewed.

    However, the substance of this blog enters a very different matter. As a health care provider myself, I understand from a different point of view the topics of
    1) privilege—procedures that I can perform by credential of the health care facility in which I am employed and—2) informed referral—procedures that I cannot perform because of lack of training or contrary to my informed conscience that I refer to providers that can ethically perform them. On that basis, I would disagree with the finding of the author that, “Dignity Health’s understanding of inclusion and equality is completely misguided if it believes that helping a transgender patient find another facility for their gender reassignment surgery assuages the emotional and psychological suffering it caused by abruptly canceling the scheduled procedure in the first place.” Although, it would have been better if Dignity Health had not scheduled the procedure in one of their Catholic health care facilities in the first place.

    That being said, I do believe that Catholic health care providers do have the responsibility to provide an informed referral for patients who need procedures that the Catholic health care facility cannot perform because of sincerely held religious beliefs.

    I also agree with UCSF’s decision not to form a relationship with Dignity Health. Such a relationship would be fraught with conflicts of interest.

    Finally, I have a very different sense when dealing with health care procedures than I do when I evaluate personal secular services such as issuing a marriage license or facilitating an adoption or fostering relationship. That is because the former involves doing something physically that may or may not be reversible, and the latter is simply performing an essential civic service. All providers of these latter services should do so without any discrimination to queer folks. If they cannot do so, then they should not be involved if providing the services in the first place.

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