Two transgender women were awarded $780,000 by a jury in Wisconsin on Thursday after the state refused to provide them with heath insurance that covers transgender medical care. Plaintiffs Alina Boyden and Shannon Andrews brought suit against the state in April with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. Boyden is a graduate student and teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Andrews is an associate researcher at the Carbone Cancer Center at UW Hospitals & Clinics focused on cancer research, according to the ACLU. Both were denied medical insurance coverage by their state employer on the basis of their transgender status.
The case is another example of the legal battle for recognition that transgender people are protected against sex discrimination by the existent language in Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964. While Title VII has long protected against discrimination on the basis of sex, the Obama administration issued guidance that sex in this context is to be interpreted to include transgender individuals.
Though the Trump Administration has since reversed that order, the law remains unchanged, and, the ACLU argues, continues to provide constitutional protection for trans people in the workplace. The Boyden v. Wisconsin ruling upholds this interpretation, and, as the ACLU wrote today, will help to assure "comprehensive health care coverage to transgender state employees across Wisconsin." Boyden was awarded $301,000, and Andrews, $479,000.
"No one should have to tell their story to a room full of strangers to justify their medical expenses," Boyden said in a statement, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "But I am thankful that I had the opportunity to share my story. I hope this sends a powerful message to fellow transgender people in Wisconsin that our health matters.”