A Catholic hospital may have violated state anti-discrimination law by refusing to perform a transgender individual’s surgery, even though the hospital referred the patient elsewhere, a court ruled Wednesday.
Mercy San Juan Medical Center is a not-for-profit Catholic hospital in the Sacramento, Calif., area. Evan Minton, who was born a female but now identifies as a man, was scheduled to have a hysterectomy at the hospital in 2016 when medical officials learned Minton is transgender. The surgery was part of Minton’s full sex-reassignment transition.
Because it is Catholic, Mercy San Juan only performs hysterectomies if the patient’s life or health is threatened. The hospital rescheduled the surgery at a non-Catholic hospital.
On Wednesday, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco reinstated Minton’s lawsuit, which had been tossed out by a lower court. The ACLU had sued on Minton’s behalf, claiming Mercy San Juan’s decision was “sex discrimination in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act,” according to KCRA-TV.
“The Unruh Act promises full and equal access to public accommodations, yet Dignity Health refuses to provide necessary care to transgender patients,” said Elizabeth Gill, an attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.
Mercy San Juan contacted Minton two days prior to the scheduled surgery.
“Catholic hospitals do not perform sterilizing procedures such as hysterectomies for any patient regardless of their gender identity, unless there is a serious threat to the life or health of the patient,” said Dignity Health, which operates Mercy San Juan. “Courts have repeatedly recognized the right of faith-based hospitals not to provide services based on their religious principles. … In this case, Mr. Minton was able to quickly receive the sought-after procedure at another nearby Dignity Health hospital that is not Catholic-affiliated.”
Court of Appeal Justice Stuart R. Pollak wrote that the hospital’s “rectification of its denial, while likely mitigating plaintiff’s damages, did not extinguish his cause of action for discrimination.” The decision was unanimous (3-0).
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.