Federal judge allows transgender discrimination claims against Georgia county to continue
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Federal judge allows transgender discrimination claims against Georgia county to continue

A US federal judge on Friday partially denied defendant Houston County Georgia’s motions to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a provision in the county healthcare plan that excluded coverage for gender confirmation surgeries. The County healthcare plan specifically excluded insurance coverage for “[s]ervices and supplies for a sex change and/or the reversal of a sex change . . . [and] [d]rugs for sex change surgery.” Plaintiff Anna Lange, a Deputy Sheriff at the  Houston County Sheriff’s Office since 2006, sued the County, the Sheriff’s office, the Sheriff, and other county employees, alleging that the County’s decision to exclude such coverage was made to discriminate against transgender employees.

Chief Judge Marc Treadwell of the US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia began her 37-page opinion by addressing the Sheriff’s Office’s Sovereign Immunity affirmative defense. She concluded that the Sheriff’s Office failed to show it was acting as “an arm of the state” and denied the motion to dismiss.

The judge also reviewed the Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the court, Lange sufficiently plead her gender dysphoria as a disability under the act. However, the court ultimately granted the motion to dismiss the ADA claim “[b]ecause the [health insurance] Plan [was] equally available to all employees and Lange [] pleaded no facts suggesting otherwise.”

Finally, Judge Treadwell dismissed Lange’s Rehabilitation Act claim and her Federal Equal Protection claims against the Sheriff individually as well as the other county employees. Though the court dismissed those claims, it allowed Lange’s sex discrimination claims under Title VII to go forward, citing Bostock v. Clayton County. Lange’s ADA Title I and Federal Equal Protection claims against both the county and Sheriff’s Office were also allowed to continue.