A federal court on Friday blocked a Biden administration mandate that would have forced religious hospitals and doctors to facilitate gender transitions against their sincere moral beliefs.
The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision to block enforcement of the rule on the grounds that “intrusion into the Catholic plaintiffs’ exercise of religion is sufficient to show irreparable harm,” the suit says.
Catholic nuns, clinics, a university and hospitals were among the plaintiffs in the case, represented by the Becket Fund. The plaintiffs all provide medical care to transgender patients but refuse to perform gender reassignment surgeries because they believe they are harmful. Their grant of a permanent injunction by the lower court was upheld on Friday.
Friday’s ruling, which originated in North Dakota, is one of a twin set of cases challenging the Biden mandate. The other, which originated in Texas, was decided in August by the Fifth Circuit Court, which also permanently blocked the rule. The plaintiffs in the Texas case included Christian medical associations of thousands of doctors who are now protected from federal interference in their practices.
“We now have two different federal appeals courts saying the Biden administration is permanently barred from forcing religious doctors and hospitals” to perform gender reassignments against their conscience, Luke Goodrich, an attorney for the Becket Fund, said during a call with journalists.
Lawsuits first began in 2016 over the implementation of Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, an anti-discrimination clause that would have forced religious medical institutions that receive federal funding to perform and cover gender reassignments, according to the plaintiffs. Section 1557 prohibits a federally funded or administered health care program or activity from denying benefits to an individual on the basis of sex as described in title IX. The Biden administration doubled down on the 2016 principle in a revised rule.
During the legal battle, the Biden administration countered that the plaintiffs could not prove that § 1557 would be enforced against them because they had not had an opportunity to try yet. The Eighth Circuit said Friday that that explanation amounted to an “admission that they could do it.”
As for what comes next, the Biden administration’s options are to seek rehearing from the Eighth Circuit or to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Goodrich said.
“I doubt the Biden administration will pursue either of those avenues,” he added.
After an unfavorable ruling by the Fifth Circuit, the Biden administration declined to pursue either option, suggesting they would not try it this time.