Federal judge says Ga. county can’t deny insurance for transgender deputy’s reassignment surgery

HOUSTON COUNTY, Ga. — A middle Georgia sheriff’s office will now be required to provide insurance coverage to a transgender deputy seeking gender reassignment surgery.

Chief Judge Marc Treadwell of Macon found that the Houston County Sheriff’s Office violated Sgt. Anna Lange’s civil rights by denying her insurance coverage for the operation, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Lange’s lawyer, David Brown, legal director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, told the AJC that he believes this is the first ruling of its kind in the South.

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Lange was born a male, but came out as a transgender woman in 2017.

In April 2018, Lange met with the county’s personnel director to see if the operation was covered by the county’s health insurance plan. Her doctor, two psychologists and a surgeon recommended Lange get the surgery, according to the AJC, but it was not included in the county’s coverage.

According to court records obtained by the AJC, Lange told Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton that she was transgender later that same day. Records show that he told Lange he did not “believe in sex changes,” but granted her permission to dress as a female.

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Lange, who specializes in elder care investigations but also investigates thefts and homicides, told the AJC that there were “rough moments” initially, but is has since become a non-issue among her coworkers.

“I think it’s because my coworkers know me and know what kind of job I do,” she said.

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Treadwell’s ruling said that “discrimination on the basis of transgender status is discrimination on the basis of sex and is a violation of [Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.]”

The judge also wrote that the estimated cost of Lange’s operation was $25,600, which was far less than what the county has spent during the legal battle.

According to Open Records Act requests obtained by Lange’s attorneys, the county’s attorneys had billed almost $690,000 as of November 2021.

Neither Sheriff Talton or the county’s lawyers responded to the AJC’s request for a statement.

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