Iowa gender identity case, advocates call “historic.”.
On Monday, the Polk County Courthouse ruled in favor of a transgender man who filed a complaint against his workplace for discrimination.
Jesse Vroegh, a transgender individual and a nurse formerly employed at the Iowa Department of Corrections, filed the lawsuit back in August 2018 after he was denied use of the men’s restrooms and locker rooms at work. He was also denied medically necessary transgender surgery coverage through his employer.
The jury ruled that the state had engaged in sex discrimination and gender identity discrimination, which is covered by both the Iowa Civil Rights Act and the Iowa Constitution.
“Being an Iowan, I want to thank a jury, made up of my fellow Iowans, for their verdict,” Vroegh said. “It means a lot for them to consider the facts of the case and determine that yes, I was discriminated against. It makes me happy and proud that they recognized that I should be treated equally by my employer and with health care coverage.”
Vroegh said that the lawsuit process has been difficult and emotionally trying.
“I do it because it’s important for all the transgender Iowans who come after me. I want them to be treated fairly and equally,” Vroegh said.
Melissa Hasso, ACLU of Iowa cooperating attorney with the Sherinian and Hasso Law Firm in Des Moines, made the following statement.
“The jury properly found that this was illegal discrimination based on sex and gender identity under the Iowa Civil Rights Act. The jury also found that the State of Iowa’s providing a health insurance plan to state employees that explicitly excluded coverage for medically necessary gender reassignment surgery violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against sex and gender identity discrimination in the provision of employee benefits.”
The lawsuit was the first transgender rights case to be filed in an Iowa district court since Iowa added gender identity protections to the Iowa Civil Rights Act back in 2007.