"Discrimination is not a part of religious liberty," Groen said in a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union. "As a faith leader and taxpayer, I am appalled that this act was done at a government institution and in the name of religion."
A 2016 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services signed by the general counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, together with other groups, affirmed that refusing surgery to someone seeking surgery that would allegedly change their gender would not be discriminatory.
"It is not 'discrimination' when a hospital provides care it considers appropriate, declines to perform procedures destructive to patients' welfare and well-being, or declines to take actions that undermine the health, safety, and privacy of other patients," the letter said.
"A hospital does not engage in 'discrimination' when, for example, it performs a mastectomy or hysterectomy on a woman with breast or uterine cancer, respectively, but declines to perform such a procedure on a woman with perfectly healthy breasts or uterus who is seeking to have the appearance of a man."
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland July 16, claims St. Joseph's Medical Center violated the equal protection clause under the Fourteenth Amendment and anti-discrimination provisions in the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
The American Civil Liberties Union is involved in the case. It has been engaged in a decades-long crusade against Catholic hospitals, often objecting that they will not provide abortions, which Catholic teaching recognizes as killing the unborn child.
In recent years, it has backed efforts to force compliance with LGBT demands. As CNA has previously reported, the legal group is a beneficiary of a major patronage system seeking to classify religious freedom protections as illegally discriminatory where religion conflicts with LGBT or pro-abortion rights demands.
Hammons is also being represented by the law firms Rosenberg Martin Greenberg and Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The lawsuit cites the June Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., which holds that the Title VII 1964 Civil Rights Act's ban on sex-based employment discrimination means that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is also banned.
The decision, authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, adopted the transgender-favored language of gender "assigned at birth." While Gorsuch cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a possible limit to his redefinition of sex discrimination, it is unclear whether these protections will withstand legal challenge.
The University of Maryland Medical System is a private nonprofit that operates 13 hospitals in Maryland. It is one of the largest employers in the state, the Washington Post reports. Its board members are appointed by the Maryland governor and it has received close to $25 million in the past two years.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Joshua Block, a staff attorney with the ACLU, is representing Hammons. He said the presence of Catholic hospitals is a church-state separation problem, given their mergers with taxpayer-supported hospitals like the University of Maryland Medical System.
"As Catholic hospitals continue to expand … you're going to run into these sorts of establishment clauses more and more," Block told the Washington Post.
"It's important to make crystal clear here that if you're going to have a hospital that is organized around religious beliefs, that hospital can't be intertwined with the government."
In a July 17 statement, he characterized the hospital as "a governmental entity" that "cannot deny medical care based on religious beliefs."
Hammons had the surgery June 24 and claims a drastic positive change in mental health, reporting better focus and energy.
"I can really just see how wrong it was to be denied in the first place," Hammons said, according to the Washington Post.