Statement on Guidance on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act

Washington, DC, May 13, 2016 — Today the Obama Administration issued guidance on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, clarifying that discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in a health care setting violates federal law. The new guidance does not broaden existing religious exemptions.

“In essence, the new guidance clarifies that discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people is prohibited in health care settings, including clinics, hospitals, mental health facilities, and doctor’s offices. While sexual orientation is not explicitly included in the rule, as courts clarify the legal basis for sexual orientation protections, we expect HHS to provide updated clarification as well. And of course the HHS will accept complaints on the basis of sex discrimination from lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,” said Meghan Maury, Senior Policy Counsel, Criminal and Economic Justice Project Director.

Access to quality affordable health care for transgender people was an important issue in the National LGBTQ Task Force’s ground-breaking study Injustice at Every Turn.” The report indicated that respondents faced serious hurdles to accessing health care, including:

–Refusal of care: 19% reported being refused care due to their transgender or gender non-conforming status, with even higher numbers among people of color.

–Harassment and violence in medical settings: 28% of respondents were subjected to harassment in medical settings and 2% were victims of violence in doctor’s offices.

–Lack of provider knowledge: 50% reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care.

With the ongoing manipulation of faith as an excuse to discriminate in states across the nation, another important aspect of the new guidance is that it does not contain a religious exemption — thanks to the successful advocacy of the National LGBTQ Task Force and its partners. This means that religious organizations may not seek a blanket exemption when a nondiscrimination obligation conflicts with religious belief. However, existing religious exemptions will continue to create barriers for many members of the LGBTQ community when seeking the provision of unbiased comprehensive reproductive health care.


Jorge Amaro
Media and Public Relations Director