A federal judge on Monday stopped HHS' recently published regulation ending anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ patients from going into effect.
U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Block in New York said the policy changes probably conflict with a recent Supreme Court ruling that found federal law prohibits workplaces from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
"When the Supreme Court announces a major decision, it seems a sensible thing to pause and reflect on the decision's impact," Block wrote in his decision.
Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, and law firm BakerHostetler sued HHS on behalf of two transgender women of color in New York after HHS' Office for Civil Rights ended a wide range of LGBTQ protections.
HHS said in June it would enforce the Affordable Care Act's chief anti-discrimination provision "by returning to the government's interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word 'sex' as male or female and as determined by biology." The agency claimed it had to change its policy, in part, because the Obama-era rule didn't acknowledge that sexual orientation wasn't a protected category under the ACA.
But a few days later, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian and transgender workers from discrimination based on sex. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion for the court, saying that a plain reading of the law's text makes it clear.
"It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating … based on sex," Gorsuch wrote.
Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David hailed the decision as an early victory for the LGBTQ community.
"LGBTQ Americans deserve the healthcare that they need without fear of mistreatment, harassment or humiliation," he said in a statement.
An HHS spokesperson said the agency is "disappointed in the court's decision."