Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi shares an update on some of the critical work GLAD is doing in the area of transgender legal rights:

Family Law

GLAD continues to play a national role in ensuring transgender people receive justice in the family law context. The centerpiece of that work is our groundbreaking book, Transgender Family Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy, published last year. Attorneys around the country are using the book to better advocate for their clients, and transgender people are using it to better advocate for themselves.

Education in the Courts
Our next step in leveling the playing field for transgender people in family court is getting the book into the hands of more attorneys and judges and educating them about the unique needs and vulnerabilities of transgender people in this context. In September, Polly Crozier, a contributor to Transgender Family Lawand a partner at Kauffman Crozier LLP, organized and moderated a panel focused on transgender family law issues attended by family court judges who hear cases throughout Massachusetts.

All attendees received a copy of the book and heard from legal and medical experts: Elizabeth Monnin-Browder, my Transgender Family Law co-editor and an attorney Ropes & Gray; Connecticut Superior Court Judge Maureen M. Murphy, the presiding judge in Waterbury Family Court; and Dr. Norman Spack, a renowned expert in treating transgender children.

Name-changes for Transgender Children
We’re also continuing critical legal work to change the experience of transgender people in probate courts, specifically around name-changes for transgender children, an issue on which we’ve fielded a number of concerning calls from parents in the past year.

We’ve fielded a number of concerning calls in the past year from parents of transgender youth facing obstacles when trying to change their child’s name. These parents are understandably looking for an immediate solution and we intervene as we can to help them. But GLAD is also on the lookout for cases that can have a precedential impact – that is, cases that create changes in the law from which everyone can benefit.

If you think you or a family member is being discriminated against in the probate system, please contact GLAD Answers.

Transition-related Health Care

The Transgender Rights Project is doing critical work as part of a national movement to remove barriers to transition-related health care for all transgender people. This includes our administrative challenge to Medicare’s ban on transition-related care.

Challenging Medicare’s Ban on Transition-Related Care
GLAD has joined with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU, and civil rights attorney Mary Lou Boelcke to represent Denee Mallon, a Medicare recipient whose doctors have recommended surgery to treat her severe gender dysphoria. Medicare, the federal program that provides healthcare to Americans 65 or older and younger people with disabilities, prohibits all forms of gender reassignment surgery regardless of an individual patient’s diagnosis or serious medical need. The ban was instituted 30 years ago, when there was little research about the efficacy of gender reassignment surgery. Now that we know these procedures are safe and effective, we have a strong case to make for doing away with this outdated policy.

Advocating for Health Care for Transgender Prisoners
GLAD is also taking on a more active role in the Massachusetts case Kosilek v. Spencer, advocating for transgender inmates to receive medically necessary care. We are currently awaiting a decision in the case from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

Advocating for incarcerated transgender people to receive medically necessary transition-related care is an important piece of this work both because of the horrific treatment transgender people face in prisons and also because of the broader impact such rulings have on the entire community. Right now, GLAD is awaiting a decision in Kosilek v. Spencer from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. The case involves Michelle Kosilek, a transgender woman who successfully sued the Mass. Department of Corrections for medical treatment of her gender dysphoria in federal district court, a ruling the state has appealed. Michelle’s longtime attorney, Frances S. Cohen, who expertly litigated this case for more than 10 years, recently departed her firm Bingham McCutcheon for a new job, so GLAD is taking a more active role in this case.

Eliminating Barriers in Insurance Coverage
We are making remarkable progress toward eliminating barriers to transition-related healthcare. In April, Vermont’s Division of Insurance issued a bulletin making clear that under state law health insurance companies operating in Vermont must cover treatment related to a person’s gender transition, including coverage for gender reassignment surgery.

This bulletin is a critical victory for the transgender community in Vermont and GLAD was proud to partner with local LGBT and health care advocates to educate insurance commissioners and encourage the Division of Insurance to issue the bulletin. For more information about the bulletin check out this FAQ from our partner RU12 Community Center.

We are now partnering with advocates in Maine and Massachusetts to explore options in those states to ensure fair insurance coverage. Stay tuned for updates in those states.