St. Joseph drops motion to dismiss transgender discrimination lawsuit

Move comes days after state appellate court gave OK to similar case to proceed

A motion by St. Joseph Hospital to dismiss a transgender discrimination case was withdrawn this week after a similar case in the Sacramento area was given the OK to continue by an appellate court judge. Eureka man Oliver Knight is suing St. Joseph for discrimination. (ACLU — Contributed)
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Within days of the news that an appellate court judge allowed a similar lawsuit to proceed, St. Joseph Hospital withdrew its motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Eureka transgender man.

The court filing also postponed the scheduled court hearing in Oliver Knight’s case set for Sept. 27.

Filed Thursday, the stipulation states, “in light of the Minton decision, the parties have agreed that St. Joseph Hospital – Eureka will withdraw its demurrer to Knight’s complaint.”

A demurrer, or attempt to dismiss the case, was filed by the hospital’s legal team in July.

On Tuesday, the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco gave the go-ahead for Sacramento man Evan Minton to proceed with a lawsuit against Mercy San Juan Medical Center, which in 2017 canceled his scheduled hysterectomy after he mentioned to a nurse two days before surgery that he’s transgender.

Similarly, Oliver Knight is suing St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka after it canceled his scheduled hysterectomy in August 2017. The lawsuit states Knight asked his physician why the surgery was canceled and was told it was because he is transgender.

Both men are diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition that occurs when an individual feels their biological sex does not match their gender identity. A hysterectomy is deemed medically necessary because it is gender-affirming for the individuals.

Elizabeth Gill, an ACLU attorney representing Knight viewed St. Joseph Hospital’s withdrawal of the motion to dismiss as a step in the right direction.

“I’m sure that Oliver is eager to move forward with his case,” she added.

“The Minton case made clear that hospitals, including religiously affiliated hospitals, are required to comply with the Unruh Act,” Gill said.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act requires “free and equal” access to “services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”

St. Joseph Hospital plans to “continue its defense through a different legal process,” the hospital said in a statement provided by spokesman Christian Hill.

“Our position remains that St. Joseph Hospital does not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. We value all people and strive to ensure every patient under our care is treated with dignity and respect,” the statement continued. “The recent court decision indicates that issues raised in the Knight case cannot be fully addressed with a demurrer. Accordingly, we will continue our defense through an alternative legal process.”

The case is scheduled for a status hearing Nov. 22 in the Humboldt County courthouse. Gill said it is likely that a trial will be scheduled at that time.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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