After having been slandered by Rush Limbaugh for her congressional testimony on women’s health and contraception, Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke is being lambasted by other right-wingers for supporting insurance coverage of LGBT-specific health needs, such as gender-reassignment procedures.
Stephen Gutowski, a blogger for the ultraconservative Media Research Center, wrote a post this week saying Fluke is “pushing some rather radical ideas,” based on an article she coedited for the Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law’s 2011 annual review issue.
In the article, “Employment Discrimination Against LGBTQ Persons,” Fluke and coeditor Karen Hu deal with “direct discrimination limiting access to benefits specifically needed by LGBTQ persons” and “the unavailability of family-related benefits to LGBTQ families.” As an example of the former, they cite lack of gender-reassignment coverage in many employee benefit plans. Gutowski objects to their assertion that gender reassignment is a medically necessary procedure and that opposition to it is often based on “ignorance and bias against transgender persons.”
Several other right-wing media outlets have picked up on his argument. For instance, Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham said on Fox & Friends Tuesday that Fluke’s article “seems to indicate that she believes that if you don’t pay for sex change operations, gender reassignment, it’s called — operations — you also could be described as a discriminatory employer. So today the pill. Tomorrow sex reassignment surgery, perhaps. And then down the road, what other things should be covered for free?”
But as Equality Matters blogger Justin Berrier points out, it is increasingly common, and not particularly controversial, for employer health insurance plans to cover gender reassignment. The Human Rights Campaign’s survey for its Corporate Equality Index last year found more than 200 companies offering the coverage, more than double the number the previous year. These include such large, mainstream companies as American Airlines, General Mills, and Office Depot.
Also, Berrier notes, the American Medical Association considers gender reassignment medically necessary for people who have been diagnosed with gender identity disorder and supports insurance coverage for treatment. “The suggestion that Fluke’s description of discrimination in employer coverage of transgender medical care is somehow extreme or outside the mainstream is simply inaccurate,” he concludes.