A Texas federal judge issued a temporary injunction on Saturday blocking the Obama administration's mandate not to discriminate against abortion and gender identity in health care services just one day before the regulations were to take effect.
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor gave the ruling in response to a lawsuit filed by the Franciscan Alliance, a faith-based health care system that runs 14 hospitals, over the Department of Health and Human Services regulation that "forbids discriminating on the basis of 'gender identity' and 'termination of pregnancy.'"
The Franciscan Alliance was represented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Texas, Nebraska, Arizona, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Kansas, Kentucky and Mississippi joined it in the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs argued that the regulation under Obamacare will force doctors to provide health care services against their religious convictions and disregard their "independent medical judgment." They also said the regulation violates both the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
The judge said the plaintiffs "have presented concrete evidence to support their fears that they will be subject to enforcement under the Rule."
"The government's usage of the term sex in the years since Title IX's enactment bolsters the conclusion that its common meaning in 1972 and 2010 referred to the binary, biological differences between males and females," O'Connor wrote in the ruling. "Prior to the passage of the ACA in 2010 and for more than forty years after the passage of Title IX in 1972, no federal court or agency had concluded sex should be defined to include gender identity."
White House spokesperson Katie Hill said the judge's decision is a "setback" and hoped it would only be temporary, adding that "all Americans-regardless of their sex, gender identity or sexual orientation-should have access to quality, affordable health care free from discrimination."
The HHS said it was "disappointed" by O'Connor's ruling but did not elaborate on what they will do next regarding the issue.
"We are disappointed by the court's decision to preliminarily enjoin certain important protections against unlawful sex discrimination in our health care system," HHS spokesperson Marjorie Connolly said in a statement.
Connolly added that Section 1557 of Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act was put in place to make sure that even the "most vulnerable" in society are not discriminated against with regard to health care.
LGBT rights advocate Human Rights Campaign condemned the judge's decision, saying it will put many people needing health care at risk of being marginalized.
"Judge O'Connor's decision to prevent the Department of Health and Human Services from implementing crucial protections for transgender people seeking healthcare services puts thousands of people at risk of marginalization, harassment, and discrimination at a time they are most vulnerable and in need of inclusive, respectful care," Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign legal director, said in a statement.