Cases & Advocacy

New York v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; City and County of San Francisco v. Azar; City of Baltimore v. Azar Amicus

In September 2019, NCLR filed four amicus briefs joined by a coalition of 22 national, state, and local LGBTQ groups in eight federal lawsuits challenging a regulation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services called “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care.” The Trump Administration’s regulation, more aptly referred to as the “denial of care” rule, would allow health care professionals to deny certain medical treatments or services to patients based on the provider’s own religious or moral beliefs – regardless of whether the patient could obtain the care from another provider.

The plaintiffs in the cases include state and local governments, Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights groups, and LGBTQ health organizations, among others. NCLR’s amicus briefs were filed in federal district courts in California, New York, Washington, and Maryland in support of the plaintiffs’ motions to bar the rule from going into effect. Raegen Rasnick of Skellenger Bender PLLC served as local counsel for the brief filed in Washington and Jessie Weber of Brown Goldstein Levy served as local counsel for the brief filed in Maryland.

NCLR’s amicus briefs discuss how the challenged rule would be particularly harmful to LGBTQ patients, who already face pervasive and harmful discrimination in health care settings.

The rule was set to go into effect on November 22, 2019, but three federal district judges vacated the rule in its entirety. On November 6, 2019, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer in the Southern District of New York issued an order striking down the rule. On November 7, 2019, Judge Stanley A. Bastian in the Eastern District of Washington also struck down the rule, as did Judge William Alsup in the Northern District of California on November 19, 2019.

The federal defendants have appealed the district court orders from the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of Washington, and the Northern District of California. The appeals are pending in the Second and Ninth Circuits.

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