Octavio Edgington, who is entering his senior year at Vanderbilt, sought the waiver on moral and religious grounds after the university, for the first time, included coverage for the controversial procedure. In a May 2016 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, a former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital detailed, as other studies have, how transgender surgery may actually harm an individual. He wrote, for instance:
“Sex change” is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.
Vanderbilt initially rejected Edgington’s waiver request without providing any explanation for its decision. Freedom X, a non-profit public interest law firm, intervened on Edgington’s behalf by threatening to sue the university for violating the Tennessee state constitution and state public accommodation laws.
Edgington is the son of a Christian pastor and counselor, who is authorized under the Affordable Care Act to add his son to his existing policy issued by Samaritan Ministries. The ACA exempts what are known as Health Care Sharing Ministries, which determine coverage based on the Biblical beliefs of its members. Edgington also qualifies to be covered under his father’s plan because the ACA provides for children up to the age of 26 to be insured under their parent’s plans.
Freedom X was assisted in the matter by local affiliated Tennessee attorney Larry Crain, of the Brentwood firm of Crain & Schuette.