Texas Court Sides Against Obamacare, HIV Victims

Protestors of the decision outside the Supreme Court building. Source: San Francisco Chronicle.

 By Hank Bartholomew

A Christain-owned company in Texas has sued the U.S. Government for its mandatory coverage of PrEP, a drug that helps to prevent HIV, and is popular with gay men. The company, Braidwood Management, argues such medication encourages “homosexual activities”, and as a Christian corporation, it violates their religious freedoms to “encourage” such mediaction, and therefore such activities (according to some interpretations of the bible, homosexuality is a sin) under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. It’s a major victory for Republicans, who have been going after Obamacare, which mandates the coverage of PrEP, for years.

This didn’t exactly come out of the blue. The owner of Braidwood Management, Steven Hotze, is a GOP mega donor, and supporter of many right-wing policies, from riling against COVID-19 mandates to supporting Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud. But what Hotze may be most well known for is his voicemail to Texas governor Gregg Abbott during the 2020 protests that erupted after George Floyd’s murder. In the 28 second call, Hotze instructs Abbott to deploy the Texas National Guard to Houston to “. . . shoot[,] to kill[.] if any of these son-of-a-***** people [activists protesting Floyd’s death] start rioting like they have in Dallas, start tearing down businesses — shoot to kill the son of a *******. That’s the only way you restore order. Kill ’em. Thank you.” When Hotze’s comments were published, he reposted them through social media.

Hotze certainly seems to be invested in it. His lawyer, Jonathan Mitchell, represented the six individuals and two companies (Another christian company brought the complaint with Braidwood). Mitchell has a track record as well. This former solicitor general of Texas is responsible for the Texas Heartbeat Act , Senate Bill 8. This act of the Texas Legislature prohibits an abortion after embryonic or fetal activity is detected, usually about six weeks into a pregnancy. This was prior to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, making it all the more important. Mitchell certainly has a stacked resume, but what exactly is he arguing?

Conflict between extreme Christians and the LGBTQ community is nothing new. Since the famous 2016 refusal by a cake shop owner to provide two gay men a cake for their wedding, the subject has been heavily featured in the news. And the argument hasn’t changed very much. Mitchell argues, “The . . . mandate forces religious employers to provide coverage for drugs that facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use,. . . It also compels religious employers and religious individuals who purchase health insurance to subsidize these behaviors as a condition of purchasing health insurance.” In a nutshell: It’s against our religion to support homosexuality. This medication encourages homosexuality. Thus, our religious freedom is restricted by this medication being provided for free. In the lawsuit, Hotze is described as one who runs the Braidwood corporation “according to Christian principles and teaching.” But more than just members of the gay community will be affacted. While popular among that minority group, others use the medication as well. Michael Boucai, professor of law at the University of Buffalo, says, “Braidwood’s objection refers to both heterosexual and homosexual sex . . .”. This descision doesn’t just affect members of the LGBTQ community.

The most interesting part of this story is the judge who made the decision. Appointed by George W. Bush, Reed O’Connor isn’t unfamiliar with going up against Obamacare. O’Connor ruled the care act unconstitutional in 2018, which was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2021. In 2016, a guideline that allowed transgender children access to public restrooms of the gender they identified as was blocked by the judge. O’Connor is the dream judge for conservatives looking to strike down democratic legislation. According to him, this legislation “substantially burdens” Braidwood’s religious freedom. “It’s one more thing that shows a federal judiciary that is extremely conservative and willing to sacrifice people’s lives in the name of abstract and new legal principles,” says Boucai.

While appeals will almost certainly be made, the fact that such a key part of a major healthcare program was struck down is news in its own right. Regardless of whether or not it’s overturned, this act will affect the future of Texas, gay men, and America as a whole.