Madison— A transgender cancer researcher filed a discrimination complaint Tuesday against the state and its insurer for refusing to provide her with gender reassignment surgery — an operation she ended up paying out of her own pocket.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Shannon Andrews, who works at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. The complaint was filed against the medical school, the state Group Insurance Board and WPS Insurance.
The ACLU announced it filed the complaint but declined to release a copy of the complaint itself because it included detailed health information. It contends the refusal to pay for Andrews' surgery last year violates her civil rights and her constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.
The case may be an isolated one. This month, the Group Insurance Board adopted plans to begin providing such coverage starting in January.
The ACLU in its news release argued the change in policy comes too late for Andrews because she has already had the surgery. It also won't help transgender employees in the public and private sectors who are covered by other insurance policies, the ACLU said.
"Many people can relate to paying into an insurance plan only to be told that the treatment they need is not covered," Andrews said in a statement. "But when the reason you are denied coverage is because of who you are, it is even more painful."
The Group Insurance Board did not provide comment on the complaint.
Spokespeople for the medical school and WPS said they had not seen it. Lisa Brunette, the spokeswoman for the medical school, noted the Group Insurance Board — not UW — determines insurance policies for its employees.
The filing comes at a time of escalating fights over the rights of transgender people.
This year, North Carolina passed a law requiring people to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the sex that appear on their birth certificates. The state and federal governments are suing each other over whether that law is discriminatory.
Some GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin last year considered a similar requirement, but the measure never got a vote.
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel joined other states in suing the federal government over bathroom policies for students set by the administration of President Barack Obama. That lawsuit, filed in federal court in Texas, is separate from the one brought by North Carolina.