State News

Transgender state employees’ medical rights upheld by state jury

Two transgender women were awarded $780,000 in damages after the state refused to pay for their health care.

Image By: Max Homstad

A Wisconsin jury awarded two transgender state employees $780,000 in damages following a September discrimination lawsuit.

The women, Alina Boyden and Shannon Andrews, were denied transition and hormone-related health insurance coverage under their state plan.

Boyden is a graduate student at the UW-Madison and Andrews is a cancer researcher at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. 

After sharing their stories with a Wisconsin jury, the two employees were some of the first to be compensated after being denied health care.

“[The ruling is] a major step towards equality in healthcare for Wisconsin,” Andrews said in a statement. “For me and Alina personally, the fight is not over."

In September, Andrews and Boyden filed a lawsuit against the state with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and volunteer attorneys from the Hawks Quindel law firm.

Federal Judge William Conley ruled that the Group Insurance Board and the UW System must cover hormone therapy and sex-reassignment care for transgender state employees.

Additionally, Judge Conley ruled that refusing this care violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Following the ruling, Larry Dupuis, legal director of ACLU Wisconsin, said no one should be denied health care based on their identity.

“Depriving transgender people of access to transition-related care is discrimination and we are pleased the jury awarded Shannon and Alina the money they need to cover their care and for the harm they suffered,” Dupuis said in a statement. “Discrimination comes with a cost, and for the State of Wisconsin the bill has come.”

While community members acknowledge the ruling as a positive step toward equal treatment in health care, some believe there is more work to be done.

“It’s very important that all individuals no matter what their identity is deserve equal benefits of healthcare,” said Hannah Pendergast, a Uw-Madison student and program assistant at the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center.  “I think it's good that they were given this money, but I think at this point … there definitely needs to be actual change because money can’t fix all of these situations that are constantly occurring.”

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