BISMARCK, N.D. — A federal judge nominated to the bench by then-President Donald Trump has preliminarily enjoined the Biden administration from interpreting federal law in a manner that would require religious employers to provide insurance coverage for “gender transition services” and mandate doctors of faith to perform or refer patients for such services.
“The current interpretation by the EEOC and HHS will cause harm to health care providers and the Alliance’s members who provide insurance across the county,” wrote U.S. District Judge Daniel S. Traynor on Monday. “The harm to the plaintiff is to force its members to violate their sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
Being represented by the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Christian Employers Alliance (CEA) had filed suit in October to contend that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are improperly enforcing the prohibition of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Biden had issued an executive order on his first day in office to include gender identity as a federally protected trait, and months later, HHS issued a “Notification of Interpretation and Enforcement,” which provided similar guidance.
“HHS interprets Section 1557’s prohibition of ‘sex’ discrimination to require healthcare providers to perform gender transition services, even on fully healthy individuals and when medically unnecessary,” ADF’s complaint stated. “This mandate also forces the healthcare members to offer and affirm gender transition services, and it censors their contrary medical opinions.”
The lawsuit argued that the Biden administration’s impositions, in light of its interpretive reading of federal law regarding sex discrimination, run afoul of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which prohibits unduly burdening religious liberty.
“HHS wants the healthcare members to offer its viewpoint on these services, and it shuts the door on countervailing viewpoints under threat of prosecution and penalty,” the suit said. “But the government is in no place to dictate the standard of care for highly debatable and evolving medical procedures.”
On Monday, Judge Traynor granted the CEA a preliminary injunction, which prohibits enforcement of the mandates while the case moves forward in court.
“Religious freedoms are at the heart of this case. It is in the public interest to ensure these rights are not violated,” he wrote.
“It is completely undisputed that the plaintiffs, compelled by fines and civil liability, must perform or provide coverage for gender transition procedures,” Traynor stated. “Imposing monetary penalties for their refusal to violate religious beliefs is a substantial burden.”
ADF applauded Traynor’s decision.
“All employers and healthcare providers, including those in the Christian Employers Alliance, have the constitutional right to conduct their business and render treatment in a manner consistent with their deeply held religious beliefs,” remarked legal counsel Jacob Reed in a statement.
“The employers we represent believe that God purposefully created humans as either male or female, and so it would violate their religious beliefs to pay for or perform life-altering medical procedures or surgeries that seek to change one’s biological sex. The court was on firm ground to halt enforcement of these unlawful mandates that disrespect people of faith.”