Former prison nurse Jesse Vroegh filed a lawsuit [complaint] in Polk County District Court on Monday under the Iowa Civil Rights Act [text, Ch. 216] and equal protection clause of Iowa Constitution [text, Art. I, Section 6] claiming the Iowa’s Department of Corrections (DOC) discriminated against him due to his transgender identity. Vroegh claims he was denied access to men’s restrooms, men’s lockers rooms, and health care coverage for a “medically necessary surgery” despite the fact that the DOC offers similar surgery for non-transgender employees. According to the American Civil Liberties of Iowa, which filed the lawsuit on Vroegh’s behalf, this is the first transgender rights suit filed since the Iowa Civil Rights Act was amended in 2007 to include gender identity and sexual orientation. Vroegh had originally filed a complaint [text, PDF] with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission claiming discrimination in July 2016. In April, however, the Commission responded that it was “too controversial” to allow Vroegh into male restrooms inciting him to file the current lawsuit. Vroegh was required to use a unisex, private restroom, which isolated him from his coworkers and did not provide him with shower access, after he spent years transitioning from female to male. Vroegh argues that the DOC cannot require employees to use private restrooms based on their gender identity and is seeking damages for emotional distress and injunctive relief to prevent further discriminatory policies in the DOC.
Transgender rights have been an controversial topic in the US. In August US President Donald Trump [official profile] directed [JURIST report] the Secretaries of the Department of Defense (DoD) [official website] and Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] to continue policies banning transgender individuals from military service. In February the Trump administration revoked [JURIST report] the Obama-era guidelines requiring federally funded schools to treat gender identity as a student’s sex for purposes of Title IX. In March the US Supreme Court [official website] vacated[JURIST report] a lower court ruling in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. [SCOTUSblog materials], which concerns transgender restroom policies in school, after the rescission of the guidelines requiring school districts to permit students to the restroom of their choice in February. In May the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] affirmed an order[JURIST report] allowing a transgender male student to use the boy’s restroom. In May a Mississippi man was sentenced [JURIST report] to 49 years in prison in the first-ever conviction for a transgender hate crime.