COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Two Boone County families with transgender children filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the University of Missouri over its policy denying gender-affirming care to minors.
The lawsuit, filed by TGH Litigation in Columbia, states MU Health Care is violating the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in any health program or activity on the grounds of sex or disability in organizations that receive federal funding. It seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against enforcing the law.
Thursday's lawsuit is on behalf of the families of two transgender boys, ages 17 and 10, referred to as J.C. and K.J. It states J.C. first visited a university doctor in April 2022. He was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and began receiving hormone replacement therapy. K.J. first visited a university doctor in September 2022. He was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and began taking puberty-delaying medication.
The families' lawyer, Andy Hirth, said the university is discriminating against his clients' disability and sex by no longer allowing them to receive treatment.
"They are being denied refills of prescriptions they've been taking for a year," Hirth said. "The only reason they're being denied that treatment is because they are being treated for gender dysphoria as opposed to some other kind of medical condition, and that falls within the definition of disability under federal law."
In June, Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill banning minors from accessing puberty blockers, hormones and gender-affirming surgeries. That law went into effect in August. However, the law does not apply to anyone who had been receiving treatment before Aug. 28, 2023.
"Even though it was still perfectly legal for them to provide this care, the university decided to abandon those patients to their own devices," Hirth said.
He said his clients run out of medicine in February, and are currently scrambling to find a solution. He said they haven't been able to find anyone in Missouri to renew their prescriptions, so they are faced with the task of finding care outside of the state.
"This is not the kind of treatment you can just start and stop," Hirth said. "It makes significant changes to your body."
The lawsuit states it's believed the doctors treating J.C. and K.J. both would have refilled their prescriptions at follow-up appointments in September 2023 if they had been allowed to do so.
In an email, a spokesperson for MU Health Care said, "We haven't had an opportunity to review the lawsuit. At this time, we won't be able to provide any comment until we've had a chance to thoroughly review the filing."
MU President Mun Choi also addressed the lawsuit at Thursday's Board of Curators meeting.
"We just received it, we're evaluating it now," Choi said. "But, from the beginning, our position was we're going to follow the law of the land."
Hirth said he intends to file for a preliminary injunction within the next week or so in an attempt to put a halt on the policy while the case is pending. He said he hopes to get in front of a judge in December.