Chicago, IL. Nixon Peabody, together with the American Civil Liberties Union, successfully challenged a ban from the Iowa Department of Human Services on Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming surgery for transgender individuals. This significant legal victory, coinciding with Pride Month, is an important win not only for transgender Iowans, but also an important step forward for transgender rights as a whole.
The Iowa District Court has entered an order invalidating the decades-old Iowa regulation categorically prohibiting this surgical care. The court held that the regulation violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against gender identity discrimination as well as the Iowa Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. It also imposed a disproportionate negative impact on the rights of transgender individuals.
Nixon Peabody and the ACLU petitioned for judicial review on behalf of EerieAnna Good and Carol Ann Beal, two women who are transgender, meaning that they were assigned the male gender at birth. For most of their lives, each has been living as the woman they have long known themselves to be, undergoing hormone therapy and legally changing their names, driver’s licenses, social security records and birth certificates to reflect their female gender identity.
Ms. Good and Ms. Beal’s health care providers determined that surgery was required to treat their gender dysphoria, but because Ms. Good and Ms. Beal are Medicaid recipients, they could not receive gender-affirming surgery under Iowa state regulation. This decision not only allows Ms. Good and Ms. Beal to move forward with this surgery, but it also establishes a precedent for other states to follow.
“This is a tremendous win and a huge milestone, and it couldn’t have come at a better time than Pride Month,” said Tom Hecht, partner at Nixon Peabody’s Complex Commercial Disputes practice and leader of the pro bono team of attorneys. “The opinion thoroughly dismantles the State of Iowa’s attempt to defend the regulation’s legality and constitutionality. It is a powerful statement.”
In addition to Tom Hecht, Nixon Peabody’s pro bono team included Chicago partners Tina Solis and Seth Horvath, associate Bill Kirby and information technologist Anders van Marter.