November 18, 2016 - This week, a Minnesota court declared that transgender patients could not be denied medical assistance or Minnesota Care benefits for medically necessary treatment, including transition-related services. This is an important victory for transgender Minnesotans who have been denied benefits and necessary medical treatment and recognizes their right to these benefits, as well as fair and equal treatment under the law. Further, this decision is significant for its recognition of transgender persons as a suspect classification deserving of strict scrutiny in constitutional analysis.
OutFront Minnesota brought suit on behalf of Evan Thomas and similar transgender Minnesotans seeking public assistance benefits for inpatient hospital services. Minnesota Statute § 256B.0625 subd. 3a expressly denies coverage for “sex reassignment surgery.” Evan Thomas is a transgender male who was denied coverage for a bilateral mastectomy and chest reconstruction. Public assistance benefits for the same procedure would have been covered had he been born a female and had the surgery as a female. OutFront Minnesota argued this denial violated equal protection guaranteed under the Minnesota Constitution. The court agreed and found that subdivision 3a deprives transgender persons equal protection and a right to privacy. Importantly, the court found that transgender persons are a suspect classification requiring strict scrutiny analysis, meaning the classification by the State must be narrowly tailored to further a government interest. The court found the classification did not withstand strict scrutiny and declared the provision void and unenforceable under the Minnesota Constitution.
Thank you to OutFront Minnesota, OutFront’s Legal Director Phil Duran, and others for their outstanding work on this case and for advancing the rights of the transgender community. OutFront has been a leader for LGBTQ rights in Minnesota for nearly 30 years, with a mission of creating a state where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are free to be who they are, love who they love, and live without fear of violence, harassment or discrimination.
Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is a proud supporter of OutFront Minnesota and its mission. Joni Thome, founding partner of Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP, served as OutFront’s legal director from 1993 to 1999 and continues to serve OutFront as an attorney referral program volunteer.