DES MOINES, Iowa — The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has filed a lawsuit against the state. This comes after filing a complaint with the Civil Rights Commission in 2016.
The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Jesse Vroegh, a transgender man, and former nurse at the Mitchellville Women’s Prison.
The lawsuit claims that after his transition, Vroegh was not allowed to use the male restrooms and locker room facilities.
The lawsuit could be historic; after Iowa made it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their gender identity in 2007 this case will be its first test.
The lawsuit also names Wellmark as a defendant.
“The state of Iowa’s insurance had an exclusion for all transgender related care. So, all care, even when that same type of procedure is covered for cisgender employees was denied to transgender employees” said ACLU Legal Director Rita Bettis.
Vroegh is suing for damages related to emotional distress, mental anguish, and court fees.
He is also asking the judge that the state be compelled to immediately create an employee policy that provides equal treatment of employees regardless of gender identity, includes training for non-transgender people, and a healthcare program that does not exclude transgender people from coverage.
One Iowa, a state leader in LGBTQ rights says issues like bathroom use are not just important to an individual’s transition, it’s important to their well-being.
“When trans folks are forced to use a restroom or a locker room that doesn’t align with their gender identity often times they experience violence or harassment, and so these laws are really there to protect” said Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, Executive Director of One Iowa.
Hoffman-Zinnel says creating a policy which includes transgender people is critical in the advancement of LGBTQ rights.
“Being out in the workplace is a scary thing for many LGBTQ folks but especially trans folks because of that fear of not knowing how their coworkers are going to treat them” said Hoffman Zinnel.
The department of corrections declined to comment on the matter.
Wellmark released a statement saying: “The State of Iowa sponsors and designs its own employee health benefit plan and Wellmark administered the plan according to the plan design.”