The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) definitely wants us all to see a lawsuit against a Catholic hospital in the Sacramento area in California as a clear-cut case of anti-transgender discrimination. The reality is a whole lot more complicated, and the ACLU's behavior here is pretty troubling for anybody who values religious freedom and freedom of association.
Evan Michael Minton, 35, had decided to pursue surgery as part of the physical transition to living as a man. He turned to the Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael to get a hysterectomy, a necessary part of the transition process. According to the lawsuit, the hospital chain canceled the procedure abruptly the day before it was scheduled to happen.
The Medical Center is a Catholic facility and operates in accordance to Catholic doctrine. In this case, the hospital does not permit or perform elective sterilization procedures due to the church's position on birth control. This is not a total ban; sometimes hysterectomies are medically necessary. But the church and hospital sees Minton's pursuit as elective and voluntary and declined to participate.
So to be clear here, the hospital does not normally perform hysterectomies. This is not an anti-transgender position. The Catholic Church's general opposition to voluntary birth control procedures is what's at issue here. So when an ACLU attorney tells the Sacramento Bee that the denial is a "clear-cut case of discrimination," that's quite far from the truth. California's anti-discrimination law does cover gender expression as part of "sex" in its definition, but is this sex discrimination if this hospital doesn't perform elective hysterectomies on anybody?
Furthermore, according to the response from a hospital, they followed up their rejection by actually helping Minton secure a new hospital to get the hysterectomy done. A spokesperson told the Bee, "We understand how important this surgery is for transgender individuals, and were happy to provide Mr. Minton and his surgeon the use of another Dignity Health hospital for his surgery within a few days."
This is far from a case where a transgender person is being cruelly turned away or being mocked or told that his transgender identity is fake or a lie or any number of anti-transgender attitudes. Minton did get his surgery from another hospital, and his doctor got emergency privileges there, again with the help of Dignity Health officials.
To be clear, though, the Conference of Catholic Bishops does oppose the inclusion of gender identity in health care discrimination laws and does not support surgically altering a person's sex. The way Dignity Health handled this conflict facilitated Minton's transition without having to compromise the hospital's religious values. Everybody got what they wanted out of this.
Nevertheless, Minton and the ACLU are suing because of how the rejection made Minton feel. And the ACLU is deliberately trying to present this as part of a concerted effort to diminish discrimination protections against transgender people.
That's obviously not what's happening here, but the ACLU has already got Catholic hospitals in their crosshairs for reluctance to induce abortions in emergency cases. It's just another weapon use to target them.
One does not have to be a Catholic, oppose abortions, or oppose transgender surgical changes to be deeply concerned that an organization devoted to civil liberties wants to use government force to try to make a hospital perform procedures its operators object to and even find deeply reprehensible.
Supporters of attempting to force the Catholic hospitals into practices that violate the members' religious beliefs tend to point out that they receive tax dollars, which really implicates the size of government and its overwhelming control over our lives.
Even if we were to say that it's acceptable for religious freedom and freedom of association to be compromised if the alternative is some form of widespread harm to individuals, that's not even the case here. Minton got the procedure he needed. The organization he is suing even helped him.
This is not a case about preserving civil liberties. This is a case about using government force to order people around and making them perform or host procedures to which they have moral objections, even when the marketplace provides alternatives.
This is the kind of behavior that actually helps feed the backlash. Letting transgender people use whichever public restroom that fits them requires others to do absolutely nothing but leave them alone and mind their own business. Forcing others to actually participate in the process of gender transition or face government sanctions is something else entirely.