Judges that hold to an originalist/textualist philosophy can surprise us
Vroegh v. Iowa Department of Corrections, et al. is seen as a win for transgender rights, but it's important to note what the Iowa Supreme Court didn't do.
I reported at The Iowa Torch that the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously upheld a Polk County jury's verdict in a discrimination lawsuit filed against the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) and Iowa Department of Administrative Services (DAS).
Some may wonder how a court with justices where Republican governors appointed all but one could reach such a conclusion in Vroegh v. Iowa Department of Corrections, et al. It’s important to note what the court did not do.
First, I need to rehash a lot of what I wrote at The Iowa Torch rehash the facts of the case.
In 2007, the Iowa Legislature amended the Iowa Civil Rights Act to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as protected classes. Vroegh's case was the first one brought to a jury after the change in the law.
The plaintiff, Jesse Vroegh, who identifies as a transgender male, worked as a nurse at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women in Mitchelville from 2009 to 2016.
Vroegh, a biological female, started working for the DOC as Jessie Sue Vroegh, later legally changed to Jesse Samuel Vroegh, after being diagnosed with having gender dysphoria.
Vroegh began hormone therapy and started publicly living as a transgender man in 2014 and asked for accommodations at work, including the ability to use the men's restroom and locker room. Vroegh also requested that the state's medical insurance, provided through Wellmark, pay for a double mastectomy as part of Vroegh's treatment for gender dysphoria.
The Iowa Correctional Institute for Women (ICIW) transitioned single-use restrooms in its administration building to unisex. Vroegh believed that was a temporary change. However, Vroegh's supervisors at the prison thought that was a permanent solution.
Vroegh's request for the state's medical insurance to pay for the double mastectomy was also denied since the state viewed the surgery as cosmetic, not a medical necessity. "Gender reassignment surgery" was excluded from the state's insurance plan.
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