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Case Name Washington v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services PB-WA-0008
Docket / Court 2:20-cv-01105 ( W.D. Wash. )
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Case Summary
This case concerns the legality of the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) June 19th, 2020 implementation of a rule under Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare), that (1) removed “sexual ... read more >
This case concerns the legality of the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) June 19th, 2020 implementation of a rule under Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare), that (1) removed “sexual orientation, sex stereotyping, and gender identity” from the definition of sex discrimination, (2) included a religious exemption, and (3) redefined the scope of entities covered under the rule.

On July 16th, 2020 the state of Washington filed this lawsuit under the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. § 706) against the HHS and its Secretary in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. Washington sought an injunction against, and vacatur of, the rule as well as declaratory relief. Washington alleged that the rule exceeded HHS’s statutory authority and was arbitrary and capricious. Additionally, Washington alleged that the rule violated the equal protection and substantive due process clauses of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

After the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, the HHS in 2016 issued a rule under Section 1557 that included sexual orientation, sex stereotyping, and gender identity as part of its definition of sex discrimination and lacked a religious exemption. However, as a result of a lawsuit filed in August 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas vacated that rule's definition of sex discrimination on October 15, 2019 (Franciscan Alliance, LLC v. Burwell). The HHS’ 2020 rule tracked the result of Franciscan Alliance. However, as Washington’s initial complaint pointed out, on June 15, 2020 the United States Supreme Court held in Bostock v. Clayton County that sex discrimination under Title VII included discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Along with its complaint, Washington filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on the grounds that its claims were likely to succeed, the rule would “irreparably harm” the state and its residents, and that an injunction would promote fairness and serve the public interest. Several amicus briefs were filed in support of the injunction.

Before ruling on the preliminary injunction, on August 18, 2020, the HHS gave notice of the decision in Walker v. Azar against the HHS (E.D.N.Y. No. 20-cv-02834). The case was substantially similar to this case, and the Walker court had decided to grant a preliminary injunction against the HHS. Following the notice, the court in this case (Judge James L. Robart) ordered each party to show cause regarding the impact of Walker. Both parties did so.

On August 28th, the court issued an order denying Washington’s preliminary injunction. Judge Robart ruled that before considering the merits of Washington’s claim, he had to consider Washington’s standing. Washington claimed it had standing because the rule would cause: (1) “additional costs or other economic harms . . . resulting from an increase in discrimination against Washingtonians or decreased healthcare coverage for Washingtonians; and (2) increased administrative costs.”

Particularly in light of the protections afforded by Bostock, Judge Robart found that Washington lacked “sufficient evidence to show that the 2020 Rule’s decision not to define on the basis of sex will yield an increase in discrimination against LGBTQ individuals or a decrease in available healthcare or health insurance coverage for that population,” and therefore ruled that all of Washington’s arguments concerning potential direct harm were insufficient. Moreover, the “administrative costs” raised by Washington also failed to support standing as they would be “self-inflicted.” Judge Robart also found Washington lacked standing to challenge the rule’s religious exceptions for “many of the same reasons.” 2020 WL 5095467. He then ordered Washington to show cause in 10 days as to why the case should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

On September 8th, Washington gave notice of its voluntary dismissal of the case, and on September 9th, 2020 the case was closed.

Madeline Buday - 09/17/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Benefit Source
Medicaid
Medicare
Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Defendant-type
Hospital/Health Department
Discrimination-basis
Gender identity
Sex discrimination
Sexual orientatation
General
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Government Services (specify)
Public assistance grants
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) United States Department of Health and Human Services
Plaintiff Description The state of Washington.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 06/19/2020
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PB-DC-0013 : Whitman-Walker Health v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (D.D.C.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
2:20-cv-01105-JLR (W.D. Wash.)
PB-WA-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/09/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PB-WA-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/16/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amicus Curiae Brief by Local Government Amici in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 47]
PB-WA-0008-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/07/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief of Amici National Health Law Program et al., in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 63]
PB-WA-0008-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/14/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 72] (2020 WL 5095467) (W.D. Wash.)
PB-WA-0008-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/28/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Robart, James L. (W.D. Wash.) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-0004 | PB-WA-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Chien, Marsha (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-0001 | PB-WA-0008-9000
Ferguson, Robert W. (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-0001
Luna, Neal Harold (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-0001 | PB-WA-0008-9000
Sutherland, Brian J (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-0001 | PB-WA-0008-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Holland, Liam (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-9000
Lane, William Kerwin III (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-9000
Other Lawyers Aguilar, Esteban Angel Jr. (New Mexico) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-0002
Avila, Jeremy A (California) show/hide docs
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Cohen, Cathren (California) show/hide docs
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Condotti, Anthony P (California) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-0002
Coursolle, Abigail K. (California) show/hide docs
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del Peral, Cesar (California) show/hide docs
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Doseck, Barbara J. (Ohio) show/hide docs
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Edwards, Elizabeth (California) show/hide docs
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Escamilla, David A. (Texas) show/hide docs
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Feuer, Michael Nelson (California) show/hide docs
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Flessner, Mark A. (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Flores, Hannah (California) show/hide docs
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Fogleman, Adam B (Arkansas) show/hide docs
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Forte, Christopher J (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Fosbre, William (Washington) show/hide docs
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Franklin, Erica Ruth (Washington) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-0002 | PB-WA-0008-9000
Hall, David (Washington) show/hide docs
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Hamburger, Eleanor (Washington) show/hide docs
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Hansen, Greta Suzanne (California) show/hide docs
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Heath, Jason M (California) show/hide docs
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Herman, G. [Nick] Nicholas (North Carolina) show/hide docs
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Herrera, Dennis J. (California) show/hide docs
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Hirsch, Rebecca (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Holmes, Peter S. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Jenkins, Michael (California) show/hide docs
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Johnson, James E. (New York) show/hide docs
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Kane, Stephen J. (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Klein, Zachary M (Ohio) show/hide docs
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Kuc, Gary W (Maryland) show/hide docs
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Kuhn, Scott (California) show/hide docs
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Letter, Douglas (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Lewis, Ronald C. (Texas) show/hide docs
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Lowney, Eric D (Knoll) (Washington) show/hide docs
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McKeon, Katherine G (California) show/hide docs
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Morgan, Anne L. (Texas) show/hide docs
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Olson, Lyndsey M (Minnesota) show/hide docs
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Parker, Barbara J (California) show/hide docs
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Perkins, Jane (California) show/hide docs
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Press, Douglas M (California) show/hide docs
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Reeve, Tracy (Oregon) show/hide docs
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Scheller, Jessica Megan (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Schneiderman, Howard Phillip (Washington) show/hide docs
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St. George, Rebecca (Minnesota) show/hide docs
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Trice, Laura Susan (California) show/hide docs
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Van Kirk, Lorraine Alofa (California) show/hide docs
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Varon, Janet (Washington) show/hide docs
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Wickham, Mary C. (California) show/hide docs
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Williams, Terry J (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
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Williams, James Robyzad (California) show/hide docs
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Wright, Francis X. Jr. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-0002
Zollinger, Stephen P (Idaho) show/hide docs
PB-WA-0008-0002

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