A federal lawsuit alleges that Tennessee's decision to restrict its employees' gender-affirming care is "discriminatory and unconstitutional."
Two trans women are behind the lawsuit
Tennessee's decision to exclude gender-affirming care for its employees is unconstitutional and discriminatory, a federal lawsuit brought by two women working for the State alleges.
The lawyers' argument
The lawyer for Gerda Zinner, 30, and Story VanNess, 38, stated they were denied gender-affirming care despite medical experts saying they were necessary. After unsuccessfully appealing her case, VanNess has since left her position as a special education teacher. Zinner still works for the State as an academic adviser.
The women worked in education
VanNess worked as a special education teacher at a Knox County public school from 2016 until 2022, and Zinner is an adviser at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
VanNess left her job due to insurance, in part
VanNess said her work was "rewarding," adding, "It was amazing. I loved my students, and they loved me, but I made a difficult decision to leave that work, partly because I could not access the same care as the other teachers I worked alongside."
She spoke about her life
"I'm not able to live my life in as fulfilling a way, in a healthy way, due to this discriminatory practice," VanNess added.
She compared her condition to depression and anxiety
VanNess said at a press conference, "It's very much like what you see in any of the research that you read about anxiety, depression, increased risk factors." She continued, "That's what I experience. Gender dysphoria is a pretty powerful thing, and I have not been able to find health care that has allowed me adequate access."
Inside the lawsuit
The filing says that state policies exclude "otherwise covered" treatments except "for, or related to, sex transformations," which the plaintiffs argued is discriminatory and unconstitutional.
The State wants to fight
Elizabeth Lane, an Attorney General's office representative, said, "We have not seen the lawsuit yet, but look forward to reviewing it and vigorously defending the State."
The UT System did not comment
The University of Tennessee System usually does not comment on lawsuits, but they shared, "The UT System, its campuses, and institutes do not have a separate health insurance policy. Our employees are provided the opportunity to participate in the State of Tennessee's health insurance plans."
Zinner spoke up
"Unlike all my co-workers, who are cisgender, as a trans woman, the health insurance that I pay for — the same as all my co-workers — doesn't give me all the care that I need because of this discriminatory exclusion," Zinner said.
She alleged discrimination
Zinner added, "Because I'm transgender, I have been denied medical treatments that I spent a long time thinking about and talking with my doctors about. We all agree this is the next step forward."
Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund represents the women
Ezra Cukor, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund attorney representing Zinner and VanNess in the suit, stated, "Every major medical association agrees, and employers and insurers throughout the South and around the nation cover it."
The lawyer's conclusion
The attorney pointed out, "But the state of Tennessee refuses to cover transgender care for its hardworking employees and their families just because of who they are."