The U.S. bishops conference has joined with other religious groups in seeking to oppose proposed non-discrimination guidelines designed to protect transgender patients from discrimination.
In a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) joined five other Christian groups in opposing the re-addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to non-discrimination rules for certain health insurance providers.
The joint letter, signed by three USCCB officials, suggests that the addition of LGBTQ protections is “unnecessary.” It specifically objects to mandated care for treatments related to gender transitions, reading, in part:
“Most problematic are the provisions of the proposed regulations that relate to ‘gender identity’ and that, read in conjunction with the preamble, appear to mandate coverage of ‘gender transition’ procedures. Protecting patients from discrimination on the basis of gender identity, as the proposed regulations in part aim to do, need not, and ought not, include a mandate to cover gender transition procedures.”
Other signatories of the letter are the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the National Association of Catholic Nurses, the Thomas More Society, the Christian Legal Society, and the National Association of Evangelicals.
The letter claims that mandating transition-related care would somehow harm the ability of healthcare providers to do their job if patients are allowed to demand treatment. The letter states, “A patient does not simply put in a token and obtain any item or procedure of his or her choosing.”
The letter also cites religious liberty issues: “No insurer or plan sponsor should be required, as a condition of providing such benefits, to violate the very religious and moral convictions that prompt them to offer those benefits in the first place.”
Healthcare protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity had been removed by the Trump administration after they were first added by President Barack Obama in what is known as the Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters regulation. This regulation covers insurance providers participating in government exchanges. Roll Call reported further:
“Most health advocacy groups welcomed the policy, saying it would expand care to those who need it most. Democratic health committee leaders in the House and Senate urged HHS to finalize the rule, saying it would guarantee LGBTQ individuals can access the care they need.
“About 56 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual people and 70 percent of transgender people have reported discrimination in health care, according to the National Health Law Program, an advocacy and litigation organization. This can lead to poor health outcomes as LGBTQ people choose to delay care.”
Once again, the U.S. bishops and other Catholic groups are aligning themselves with right-wing forces intent on denying transgender and non-binary people their civil rights. And they again use the cudgel of religious liberty, improperly understood. Simultaneously, these groups choose a false reality and refuse to acknowledge the truth that gender-affirming healthcare saves lives and leads to greater flourishing for its recipients.
The upside is that another Catholic, President Joe Biden, is almost guaranteed to ignore these right-wing critics and instead do what is right: protect transgender patients from discrimination.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, March 11, 2022