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Human Rights Violation Filed Against Hospital

Although a celebrity like Caitlyn Jenner has the status, resources and geographical advantages to overcome potential discrimination concerning healthcare and elective medical procedures, many of the other estimated one million Americas who identify themselves as transgender continue to face obstacles.

Those challenges are apparent in the complaint recently filed with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights against a DC hospital by a transgender woman who claims a doctor refused to perform breast implant surgery because of her gender identity. The case also could be groundbreaking due to the potential First Amendment/religious liberty issues involved, according to a leading DC civil rights attorney.

“Assuming the accusations are true, this could be a real battleground on the First Amendment,” said Brian J. Markovitz, a partner with Joseph, Greenwald & Laake.

Markovitz said that, if true, Medstar Georgetown University Hospital’s refusal to perform the procedure – as a Catholic hospital, yet open to the public – could be a violation of the DC Human Rights Act that protects against discrimination. In addition, Markovitz says, the case may be unique in its involvement with transgender issues combined with an elective hospital procedure, as well as the potential political influences and possible impact of the Home-Rule Act, which requires U.S. Congressional approval of many laws in DC, which lacks a state legislature.

“If the hospital defends itself on First Amendment grounds, this could get pulled into federal court, and then you might see this interesting debate involving medical procedures and religious exemptions for hospitals,” Markovitz said. “The chances of this case eventually heading to the Supreme Court may be slim, but if the parties involved are diligent enough, I could see it happening.”

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