Media Contact

Ryan Karerat, ACLU, 212-284-7388,

Anna Nuñez, ACLU of Texas, 713-325-7010,

Danielle Conrad, ACLU of Nebraska, 402-476-8091 x102,

September 16, 2016

FORT WORTH, Texas — The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a motion to intervene in a case challenging a section of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits health care entities from discriminating based on race, national origin, sex, age or disability. The lawsuit, Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell, was filed by a group of states and religiously affiliated health care organizations who are suing the federal government. 

The ACLU has moved to intervene on behalf of the ACLU of Texas and the River City Gender Alliance because the lawsuit seeks to undermine critical anti-discrimination measures and to allow religion to be used to harm others, including by denying medical care.

The lawsuit requests a court order permitting discrimination against women and transgender people seeking medical care. The plaintiff states and organizations spend millions in taxpayer dollars, employ hundreds of thousands of health care workers, and operate a wide network of hospitals and health care facilities. Sanctioning their request to screen patients based on religious doctrine would allow hospitals and health care centers to turn away transgender patients seeking necessary gender-confirming care or women seeking reproductive health care.

“This lawsuit aims to undermine critical protections against discrimination in health care. No one — whether they’re male or female, transgender or not — should fear being turned away at the hospital door because of who they are,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the ACLU. “Religious liberty does not mean the right to discriminate or harm others.”

Kate Parrish, president of the Omaha, Nebraska-based River City Gender Alliance, said, “This lawsuit’s attempt to allow hospitals the ability to deny essential gender-confirming care is a direct attack on the transgender community’s right to function normally and safely in everyday life,” said “It is harrowing for our members to see our rights to health care coverage and medically necessary treatment endangered simply because of who we are.”

In addition to the Franciscan Alliance, the other plaintiffs in the case are the Christian Medical & Dental Associations and the states of Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky (through their governor), and Kansas.  

"This case is about supporting our transgender Nebraska neighbors and ensuring no Nebraskan is discriminated against when they are seeking health care," said Danielle Conrad, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nebraska. "It is disappointing our state leaders continue to pursue their personal political agenda with taxpayers resources by filing cases against the federal government that seek a license to discriminate against some Nebraskans based on who they are. This case also has broader implications for all Nebraskans as our state has a very high percentage of hospital beds in religiously-affiliated facilities and its important strong nondiscrimination provisions remain in the law so healthcare facilities are not permitted to refuse treatment based on their religious beliefs. We applaud the River City Gender Alliance for standing up for basic fairness for all Nebraskans and indeed all Americans.”

The ACLU’s motion to intervene can be found here: