Transgender woman awarded for equal rights advocacy

Jennifer Fletcher has spent five years advocating for equal rights in the Alaska state health care coverage plan.

Fletcher is a transgender woman who filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the State of Alaska on June 5. In the federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of Fletcher, it alleges Fletcher “has been denied coverage for medically necessary transition-related care because she is transgender.”

“It became abundantly clear to me that I would have to do something,” Fletcher, 36, of Juneau, said. “And it would be a regrettable necessity.”

Fletcher is a legislative librarian at the state Legislature and has been working there for four years. She began her process about five years ago and has been petitioning for health care rights ever since.

Her fight against the state health care system, AlaskaCare Employee Health Plan, recently earned her an award. Last Sunday, SouthEast Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance (SEAGLA) awarded Fletcher with this year’s Mildred Boesser Equal Rights Award during its annual Pride Picnic.

Boesser was a long-time supporter and advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer (LGBTQ) rights in Juneau. This is the third year of the award. Past winners include former city manager Kim Kiefer and current City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Jesse Kiehl.

SEAGLA’s Facebook post said the group honored Fletcher for her work in the lawsuit and referred to her actions as “truly in the spirit of the late Mildred Boesser.”

“Jen’s work on this issue has spanned from the tedious background slog to the loud and proud demanding of equal protection under the law,” SEAGLA’s post said.

Fletcher said the award meant a lot to her and that the response from her peers has been positive.

“To be honest, it is quite the honor,” Fletcher said. “It is quite amazing and everybody has been amazingly supportive.”

In April, two Wisconsin residents also filed a federal lawsuit against the state over the same issue.

Peter Renn, who is a Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal and one of Fletcher’s lawyers, said the court will decide financially how much money Fletcher would be due from out-of-pocket medical fees and emotional distress. He added that the lawsuit goes beyond financial retribution.

“Jennifer just wants to make sure no one else will go through what she went through,” Renn said in a phone interview. “She wants all transgender employees to be treated fairly.”

In an email to the Empire Wednesday, Alaska Department of Law spokeswoman Cori Mills said, “We are in the process of reviewing the complaint and determining our response.”

• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.

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