Library employee Rachel Dovel has been transitioning from male to female over the past two years. February of last year, she changed her name legally from Nathan and has come out as transgender. Now, she says she needs gender confirmation surgery to complete her transition and match her physical traits with the gender she identifies with. The library’s insurance doesn’t cover that procedure. The library’s 7 board trustees say they haven’t made a decision one way or the other about the coverage and say they’re not trying to discriminate against Dovel. The board will consider whether or not to acquire trans-inclusive benefits in August. The coverage will cost a little more than the library’s current plan, though advocates say that price increase is minimal. Dovel says that after a year-long fight to get the surgery, the end of the summer is too long to wait..
Dovel’s attorney says they are prepared to file a federal gender-discrimination lawsuit against the library. Rachel’s case against the library will be a case of first impression in the country, meaning no employer in the United States has refused to offer coverage for gender confirmation surgery, leading their employee to file a federal lawsuit,” Dovel’s attorney Josh Langdon said at a news conference April 12 in front of the downtown library. “Just like Obergefell v. Hodges, Cincinnati will literally make history with Rachel’s case.”
Dovel, who works processing books for circulation, has been with the library for more than a decade. Dovel initially sought to have the surgery under the library’s health insurance policy. But she was informed that the policy under Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield did not offer coverage for the procedure. Dovel and attorneys challenged Anthem, saying the fact it did not offer the coverage violated gender discrimination clauses under the Affordable Care Act. The insurance company eventually complied, offering supplemental coverage for transgender care, including the procedure Dovel would like to receive. However, the library has yet to purchase that coverage.
A number of local corporations already offer such coverage, including Macy’s and Kroger. Trans advocates say procedures like the one Dovel is seeking are vital.