U.S. Supreme Court Declines Transgender Patient’s Case Against Catholic Hospital

Evan Minton

A transgender man’s lawsuit against a Catholic hospital will be allowed to proceed after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.

Dignity Health, a national hospital system with numerous Catholic institutions, sought to overturn an appeals court ruling that reinstated Evan Minton’s discrimination suit after it had been dismissed previously. The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

“The justices voted 6-3 to deny review of an appeal by Dignity Health of a discrimination suit by Evan Minton. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch voted to hear the case, one short of the number needed to grant review. . .

“Minton filed suit in San Francisco, where the hospital chain is based. The suit was dismissed by Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn, who said Minton had suffered no tangible harm, but was reinstated in 2019 by the state’s First District Court of Appeal.

“‘It cannot constitute full equality (under California law) to cancel his procedure for a discriminatory purpose, wait to see if his doctor complains, and only then attempt to reschedule the procedure at a different hospital,’ Justice Stuart Pollak said in the 3-0 ruling, which returns the case to Kahn’s court for further proceedings. ‘Full and equal’ access requires avoiding discrimination, not merely remedying it after it has occurred.'”

In 2017, Minton was denied care just two days before a scheduled hysterectomy at Dignity Health’s Mercy San Juan Hospital in Sacramento. The hospital told him and his surgeon that while they allow hysterectomies, they would not grant him care for a gender-confirming surgery.

After the Supreme Court’s decision, Minton told The Fresno Bee:

“‘For the first time in a long while, I can feel my heart begin to relax and a smile comes easily to my face. The words that instinctively run through my head are, “Thank God,” and that is in all meanings of that expression. At the same time, it makes me angry that I’ve had to fight for basic rights, like the ability for transgender people, not to be turned away from care from our hospitals. And it’s felt like a slap in the face to see Dignity Health wage an advertising campaign, claiming that they are LGBTQ-inclusive, while fighting all the way to the Supreme Court for their right not to serve me.'”

Dignity Health argued it opposes discrimination as part of “the legacy of the sisters who founded our Catholic hospitals,” and stated further:

“‘We realize that people who are LGBTQ have faced significant and longstanding challenges getting the care they need from supportive and knowledgeable providers. We regret that Mr. Minton’s hysterectomy was incorrectly scheduled at one of our facilities that does not provide the service he needed. We realize how frustrating and disappointing it is for a patient to have a procedure rescheduled on short notice. Our team was able to quickly facilitate access for Mr. Minton’s procedure at a nearby provider three days later.'”

Minton and his attorney, Elizabeth Gill of the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, believe Dignity Health’s words alongside their push to the US Supreme Court “puts the lie to its statements about a devotion to serving everyone.”

Catholic hospitals claim they stand against all forms of discrimination and vow to care for all persons, yet they deny transgender persons life-saving medical procedures are hypocritical. Gender-confirming surgery is life-saving because it contributes to a trans person’s human flourishing, which is one of Catholicism’s guiding social, ethical, and moral principles. If we are to flourish ourselves, we must help others in their own path of flourishing. Therefore, it is crucial, holy, and a true act of solidarity to provide essential medical care to trans persons.

Elise Dubravec, New Ways Ministry, November 23, 2021

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