Georgia county asks court to drop lawsuit from trans cop

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A transgender sheriff’s deputy in Warner Robins her fight for Houston County to cover her gender confirmation surgery, despite the county’s efforts to dismiss her federal lawsuit.

Sgt. Anna Lange (photo) sued the county’s board of commissioners and personnel director last October. By excluding transgender healthcare in its employee health plans, the county violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Americans With Disabilities Act, according to the lawsuit.

“She’s not giving in,” attorney David Brown told Project Q Atlanta. “She’s hanging in there every day and pressing for her rights.”

Brown is Lange’s co-counsel and legal director of Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia held a hearing in August to address two motions by attorneys for the county to dismiss the case. It was “the most significant event to occur in the case thus far,” Brown said.

Attorneys from Atlanta law firm Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson argued that the Houston County Board of Commissioners “lacks the capacity” to be sued, according to the motion.

“The defendants moved to dismiss the case essentially saying that Sgt. Lange doesn’t have the right to sue because what they’ve done isn’t illegal and that they’re immune from being sued because they are government agencies,” Brown said.

Lange’s attorneys filed a preliminary injunction in November to force the county to cover the surgery while the case winds through the legal process.

“We needed relief right away, because in this case, Sgt. Lange is suffering from an untreated medical situation,” Brown said.

Judge Marc Treadwell has not yet ruled on the preliminary injunction.

A major U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June boosted Lange’s case, according to Brown. The decision in a trio of consolidated cases included Bostock v. Clayton County, which involved a gay metro Atlanta man Gerald Bostock. The court ruled that existing federal law prohibits discrimination against employees for being LGBTQ. The plaintiffs asserted Title VII rights in their cases, just as Lange does in hers.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock cleared away a lot of doubt, and because this is an employment discrimination claim, we are very confident in how it will proceed,” Brown said. “The only thing that’s confusing at this point is why the defendants are continuing to discriminate despite how harmful and illegal their actions are.”

Lange continues to work as a county sheriff’s deputy while the case is ongoing.

She’s continuing to fight,” Brown said. “She hasn’t lost any hope, and I think the hearing was a very positive step.”

“She’s suing her boss, which is quite a remarkable and courageous thing to do,” he added.

This story is made possible by a grant from the Google News Initiative’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.

Photo courtesy Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund

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