Federal Judge Blocks Anti-Discrimination Biden Healthcare Rule Based Around Gender Identity

By: Alex Trent | Published: Jul 04, 2024

On Wednesday, a federal judge put a stop to a new Biden administration healthcare rule that was set to go into effect on Friday.

This rule was billed as an anti-discrimination healthcare provision that would have allowed federal funding to flow to transgender people seeking hormones, surgery, and other gender-affirming care.

Biden Rule

In April, the Biden administration announced a new rule that was going to protect LGBT Americans who are seeking medical care which reversed a policy under former President Donald Trump.

A portrait image of Joe Biden sitting in front of the American flag.

The White House/Wikimedia Commons

“Today’s rule is a giant step forward for this country toward a more equitable and inclusive health care system, and means that Americans across the country now have a clear way to act on their rights against discrimination when they go to the doctor, talk with their health plan or engage with health programs run by HHS,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement at the time.


Controversial Provision

While the rule was being set forth by a federal agency, some of the rule’s provisions clashed against laws recently passed by states.

A pair of hands with fingers painted with the letters "LGBTQIAH" in rainbow colors

Source: Alexander Grey/Unsplash

More than 20 states have restrictions or outright bans on transgender youth having access to certain forms of gender-affirming care.

Preliminary Injunction

In response to the Biden administration rules, the state of Florida filed a lawsuit, which has now resulted in US District Judge William Jung issuing a preliminary injunction that blocked the rule from taking effect in the state, citing the conflict between state law and federal rules.

A brown wooden gavel against a black background.

Tingey Injury Law Firm/Unsplash

“The plaintiff agencies and the healthcare providers they regulate must either clearly violate Florida law, or clearly violate the new rule,” Jung wrote.

Altering Policy

In his ruling, Jung wrote that Florida’s Department of Management Services would need to “alter its policy against reimbursing managed care plan members for sex-change treatments” to comply.

A heart is drawn on a rainbow in a persons open hand.

Source: Alexander Grey/Unsplash

“This is not possible because DMS (the department) cannot amend its self-funded insurance plan without permission from the Florida Legislature, which is not in session and which has previously barred payment of tax dollars for gender transition treatment,” Jung wrote. “DMS will clearly suffer irreparable harm if the rule is not stayed.”

Gender Identity Core of the Issue

At the heart of the matter in the case is whether “gender identity” is a protected class that falls under sex discrimination under laws like Title IX.

he pronouns "they/them" displayed on a vibrant rainbow-striped background

Source: Katie Rainbow/Unsplash

“The final rule is stillborn and a nullity if Title IX does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of ‘gender identity,'” Jung wrote. “The Eleventh Circuit has spoken on this point, clearly: Title IX does not address discrimination on the basis of gender identity. … Frankly, this ends the issue – the new rule appears to be a dead letter in the Eleventh Circuit.”


Another Federal Judge Blocks the Rule

US District Judge Luis Guirola in response to a motion joined by several states including Ohio, Kentucky, Tennesse, Mississippi, Georgia, and more also granted a preliminary injunction against the Biden rule.

A close-up of a judge holding a wooden gavel on a wooden surface.


“After reviewing the submissions of the parties, the record in this matter, and the applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have demonstrated they are entitled to a stay of the effective date of the May 2024 rule,” said Guirola.


Supreme Court Consequences

One reason for the injunction cited by Guirola that blocked the rule is related to a recent ruling by the US Supreme Court that overturned the Chevron Deference standard for federal agencies.

A view of the U.S. Supreme Court in the daytime.

Source: Fine Photographics/Unsplash

With this ruling overturned, federal agencies like the HHS have lost much of their power to enforce rules, especially when they conflict with existing state laws.


Acting Unreasonably

Judge Guirola accused the HHS of acting unreasonably and misinterpreting a section of the Affordable Care Act.

Someone's back is turned and they are wearing pink pants and a rainbow flag.

Source: Charlotte Butcher/Unsplash

“HHS acted unreasonably when it relied on Bostock’s analysis in order to conflate the phrase ‘on the basis of sex’ with the phrase ‘on the basis of gender identity,’” Guirola wrote. “Specifically, the Bostock holding did not ‘sweep beyond Title VII to other federal or state laws that prohibit sex discrimination.’”


States Celebrating

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skremetti whose state was part of the lawsuit, celebrated the blocking of the Biden rule.

A grouping of balloons floating on the ceiling.

Source: Adi Goldstein/Unsplash

“The administration has over and over again issued regulations that mangle the law to advance an ideological agenda,” Skremetti said. “This case is just one of many examples of Tennessee working with other states to block the unlawful abuse of regulatory power.”


Blaming the Supreme Court

In the reaction online, some commenters blamed the recent rulings by the Supreme Court, which currently has a conservative majority.

An official portrait of the Supreme Court justices in 2022.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

“You can thank (or hate) the Heritage Foundation and the Federalists Society for cramming right-wing justices into every conceivable position in government during Drumpf’s reign,” said a Reddit user.


Future Impacts

Others wondered how repeated rulings by courts rejecting a conflation of gender and sex would affect future cases.

A rainbow colored flag flying on a flag pole.

Source: Peter Muscutt/Unsplash

“Will these repeated debunking the conflation of gender & sex rulings impact the Wyoming sorority case? That no reasonable person could read the contract (that the judges kept droning on about)and seriously believe that female includes some men, and that sex is the same as a gender identification?” wrote X user Patsy Mink.