A US federal judge has ruled that a group of Roman Catholic hospitals cannot be forced to perform gender transition surgeries contrary to their religious beliefs.
A regulation introduced by the Obama administration in 2016 required healthcare providers to carry out gender transition surgery, and for employers to cover the cost, irrespective of any religious objections.
But Judge Peter Welte granted a permanent exemption to the hospitals, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The case against the Department of Health and Human Services was originally brought by the hospitals in 2016. A ruling in their favour was finalised three years later.
As a result, the Department altered the wording of the rule to grant legal protection to medical bodies and employers so they would not be required to violate their consciences. However, there is legal uncertainty over the amendment due to other potentially conflicting judgments.
But Judge Welte’s ruling confirmed that requiring the Roman Catholic groups to “perform and provide insurance coverage for gender-transition procedures violates their sincerely held religious beliefs”.
Religious liberty specialists Becket Law welcomed the judge’s declaration as recognising “our medical heroes’ right to practice medicine in line with their conscience and without politically motivated interference from government bureaucrats”.