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Lambda Legal Sues State of Oregon to Defend Health Care Rights of Transgender Man

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"Alec Esquivel was denied coverage for a medically necessary procedure specifically because he is transgender—this type of discrimination is unlawful."
June 21, 2011
M. Dru Levasseur

"By not covering this procedure, the state is refusing to provide Alec Esquivel with the same health care coverage as his co-workers."

(Portland, OR, June 21, 2011)—This morning, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of Alec Esquivel, a state employee who was denied insurance coverage for medically necessary surgery because he is transgender.

"Alec Esquivel was denied coverage for a medically necessary procedure specifically because he is transgender. This type of discrimination is unlawful and risks the health of hardworking, productive citizens of Oregon," said Dru Levasseur, Transgender Rights Attorney at Lambda Legal. "By not covering this procedure, the state is refusing to provide him with the same health care coverage as his co-workers."

Alec Esquivel is a 41-year-old law school graduate who is clerking for the Oregon Court of Appeals. Assigned female sex at birth, he was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in 2001 and began to take steps to have his body match his male gender identity. In 2010, as part of his transition-related health plan, Esquivel's doctor recommended that he undergo a hysterectomy as part of his GID treatment and because he was at heightened risk for uterine and ovarian cancer. Esquivel's doctor then submitted a request for insurance coverage. On June 21, 2010, Esquivel was denied coverage based on the plan's categorical exclusion of transition-related health care. This morning, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against the state of Oregon and the Public Employees' Benefit Board arguing that Oregon's antidiscrimination law prohibits an employer from denying insurance coverage on the basis of gender identity.

"Whether your insurance will cover a medically necessary procedure should not depend on who you are," said Jennifer Middleton, attorney for Middleton & Lee, PC. "The Oregon legislature outlawed this kind of discrimination in 2007 and the State has no place continuing to practice it."

Gender Identity Disorder is a serious medical condition recognized by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the National Association of Social Workers. GID treatment varies by individual, but can involve a combination of hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery and Real Life Experience (living for a period of time in accordance with your gender identity). The AMA and other the organizations above have called for an end to discriminatory exclusions of medical care in public and private health insurance policies for people with GID.

"My doctor has determined that this procedure is necessary for me," said Alec Esquivel. "Other people who work here and who need this very same procedure get the coverage they need, why shouldn't I?"

Read more about the case, Esquivel v. Oregon.

Dru Levasseur, Transgender Rights Staff Attorney, and Tara Borelli, both with Lambda Legal, are seeking admission pro hac vice to participate in the case along with Oregon attorneys Stefan Johnson (also with Lambda Legal) and Jennifer Middleton of Middleton & Lee PC, based in Eugene, Oregon.



Contact Info

Contact: Erik Roldan; 312-663-4413 x359; eroldan@lambdalegal.org

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.