Physician assistant sues hospital over firing for refusing to participate in sex-change surgeries, cave to pronoun policy

Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash
Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash

A physician assistant has sued the University of Michigan Health-West after being fired by the medical facility for refusing to participate in body mutilating sex-change surgeries and refusing to use the chosen pronouns of trans-identified patients.

Valerie Kloosterman filed a lawsuit against Michigan Health on Tuesday, with the litigation being filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division.

The litigation argues that Michigan Health wrongfully refused to grant Kloosterman a religious exemption from performing so-called "gender reassignment surgeries" or using the preferred pronouns of patients suffering from gender dysphoria. 

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“University of Michigan Health-West violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it denied Ms. Kloosterman a religious accommodation and fired her because of her religious beliefs,” stated the suit.

“If not for Ms. Kloosterman’s religious beliefs about gender and sexuality, she would not have been fired. The hospital officials’ explicit attack on her religious beliefs provides direct evidence that her termination was the result of unlawful religious discrimination.”

The litigation seeks to have the medical facility reinstate Kloosterman, compensate her for “lost wages and benefits,” and to respect her religious objections to the hospital’s trans policies.

Kayla Toney, counsel for First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based law firm helping to represent Kloosterman, said in a statement on Wednesday that “Michigan Health violated her rights and ended her employment.”

“It is blatantly intolerant of Michigan Health to demand that medical professionals like Valerie abandon their religious beliefs in order to remain employed,” stated Toney.

“Valerie loves her community and her job. She is devastated that the University of Michigan health system derided her beliefs and demanded that she choose between her faith and providing health care.”

Peter VanLaan, associate general counsel for Michigan Health, told The Center Square on Wednesday that the “University of Michigan Health-West is committed to providing appropriate medical treatment to all patients and respects the religious beliefs of its employees.”

“Our organization does not discuss personnel issues and as such, has no further comment,” he added.

According to court documents, Kloosterman was fired in August of last year because she was required to complete a training program that mandated she use the preferred pronouns of a patient and participate in sex-change procedures. Such surgeries include the castration of trans-identified men and elective mastectomies on females who want their breasts amputated to look more masculine. 

Meetings with Michigan Health officials regarding her religious objections were held following her refusal to finish the program, according to court documents, in which officials reportedly showed contempt for her beliefs.

Last month, First Liberty Institute sent a letter of complaint to VanLaan and Timothy G. Lynch, vice president and general counsel of the University of Michigan Health, on behalf of Kloosterman.

“Michigan Health listed her unwillingness to refer patients for certain gender dysphoria-related drugs and procedures, her unwillingness to use pronouns that do not correspond to a patient’s biological sex, and her alleged alteration of medical records to change patients’ pronouns (a false charge that Ms. Kloosterman continues to deny),” the letter stated.

Earlier this year, University of Michigan Health-West announced that the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT activist group, had designated the medical institution as a “top performer for LGBTQ+ healthcare equity.”

The university said in the announcement that the hospital had earned the designation by having training in LGBT patient-centered care, giving equal benefits to same-sex couples, advancing equal hospital visitation policies and promoting resources for LGBT patients.

“Our mission requires us to relentlessly advance health for West Michigan — and there is no room in that mission to exclude anyone,” said UMH-West CEO Dr. Peter Hahn, as quoted in the announcement.

“I’m proud of our team’s commitment to inclusion as one of our core values and their enthusiasm to keep building on our progress.”

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