Transgender cop sues Georgia county for healthcare coverage

A transgender sheriff’s deputy in Warner Robbins filed a federal lawsuit against Houston County for not covering her gender confirmation surgery.

The suit by Sgt. Anna Lange was announced at a press conference Wednesday in front of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia in Macon.

“I have devoted more than a decade of my life to a job that I love with the backing of supervisors and colleagues who truly respect my work,” Lange (photo) said in a press release. “Despite my dedicated years of service, the county has singled out and excluded the medically-necessary care that I need simply because I’m transgender.”

“I just want to be treated fairly and earn the same benefits as my co-workers who serve on the force,” she added.

The suit was filed against Houston County, the Houston County Board of Commissioners and Kenneth Carter, the county's personnel director.

Lange came out as female and transitioned on the job in 2017. She said she was initially told that her gender confirmation surgery would be covered, so in November 2017, she consulted with a surgeon. But her insurance company, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, later denied preauthorization for the surgery due to a carve-out by the county to her healthcare plan.

That forced her to cancel the surgery, which was already scheduled for January 2019, according to Noah Lewis, senior staff attorney with the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.

“Anna has served the county for 13 years as a sheriff’s deputy and she’s just asking for the same thing that all the other employees get, which is coverage for medically-necessary care,” Lewis told Project Q Atlanta.

The county is violating the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans With Disabilities Act by excluding transgender healthcare in its employee health plans, according to the lawsuit.

The discrimination Lange has experienced because of the transgender exclusion in the county’s health plan “has caused her financial hardship, distress, anguish, stress and humiliation,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks the removal of the transgender exclusion in the county’s health plans plus damages and attorneys’ fees, according to Lewis.

Several Atlanta-based LGBTQ groups voiced support for Lange and the lawsuit, including Chanel Haley, gender policy manager for Georgia Equality.

“Transgender-related surgeries and other procedures are a vital part of the journey to health and well-being for many trans individuals,” she said in the press release. “Insisting on medically-necessary care is not an unreasonable expectation. By refusing to cover this care, the Houston County Commissioners are trampling trans rights and ignoring one of their own.”

Zahara Green, executive director of Transcending Barriers Atlanta, and Kayla Gore, southern regional organizer for the Transgender Law Center at Southerners on New Ground, also supported Lange's lawsuit.

Lewis also represented a transgender UGA employee who sued the University System of Georgia for not covering his gender confirmation surgery. USG settled the case with Skyler Jay in September and removed the transgender healthcare exclusion from its health plans. Jay also received $100,000 under the settlement. 

A transgender former fire chief filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against city officials in Byron, Ga. Rachel Mosby claimed the officials harassed and later fired her after she came out as transgender. The city claimed that Mosby was fired because of her job performance.