LGBTQ Advocates Protest Ice Rink Sponsorship By Catholic-Linked Healthcare System

California LGBTQ advocates are calling for  a healthcare system that includes Catholic hospitals which refuse certain medical services to transgender patients to end sponsorship of a community recreation facility.

In Sacramento, Dignity Health is sponsoring an ice rink in collaboration with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership (DSP). But this financial support has made what should be a community unifying space into one that makes it difficult for LGBTQ people to participate comfortably, according to Evan Minton and Em Ward. The Sacramento Bee reported:

“Minton joined with another former Dignity patient, Roseville resident Em Ward, to publicize their concerns. Ward said that Dignity’s forms do not have a way for patients to identify themselves as nonbinary, leading to a nightmarish experience at a Dignity psychiatric hospital where staff dismissed Ward’s concerns about safety and gender misidentification.

“‘The experience left scars,’ Ward said. ‘I feel repulsed whenever I see Dignity Health’s advertising campaigns targeted to the LGBTQ+ community, because I know firsthand the harm they inflict on our community. I was looking forward to celebrating the holidays at the DSP ice skating rink, but with Dignity Health as a sponsor there’s no way I can go.'”

Minton is currently suing Dignity Health after he was denied gender-affirming care at the system’s Mercy San Juan Medical Center. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to review his case thus allowing the lawsuit to proceed in lower courts. Minton commented on the ice rink controversy:

“‘At a time when we are seeing access to reproductive healthcare and LGBTQ+ healthcare being stripped away across our nation, it is shocking and dismaying to see that the Downtown Sacramento Partnership would partner with a health care system that is taking a leading role in the fight to limit health care to these very populations. . .When privately given an opportunity to respectfully distance themselves from Dignity Health’s discriminatory practices and quit taking potential future funds from Dignity Health once their current partnership expires, Downtown Sacramento Partnership chose otherwise.'”

Minton and Ward are backed by organizations that include the Sacramento LGBT Community Center and the Sacramento Stonewall Democrats, as well as at least one local politician.

Despite LGBTQ advocates’ objections, the Sacramento Downtown Partnership has defended its collaboration with Dignity Health, saying the funds from the healthcare system “allowed us to provide critical programming in the downtown core after nearly two years of devastating impacts.” The Partnership pledged to continue collaborations with “entities that share a commitment to our core values of creating a welcoming, active, innovative, inclusive, and resilient downtown.”

For its part, Dignity Health rejected claims it was discriminatory, highlighting its work with AIDS patients in the 1980s and current transgender care in non-Catholic hospitals. This reasoning was similar to that given recently in response to Minton’s lawsuit being allowed to proceed.

The controversy in Sacramento is not the first involving Dignity Health. Previously, the healthcare system withdrew its sponsorship of a Sacramento theater after LGBTQ advocates protested. And the system’s affiliation with Catholic hospitals, which are restricted in providing reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive healthcare by the U.S. bishops’ ethical guidelines, has led to complications in how it partners with other California hospitals.

The church has long affirmed its commitment to healthcare as a universal human right. It is past time for transgender patients to be included in that commitment, too, not only in Dignity Health, but across Catholic healthcare.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 29, 2021

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