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Trump Administration Gives Green Light to LGBTQ Discrimination at HHS

Last week, the Trump administration made a formal announcement that it would no longer be enforcing existing regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established during President Obama’s second term prohibiting discrimination within HHS-funded programs based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. The administration also announced that they would also be giving themselves the authority to no longer require HHS-funded programs to recognize same-sex marriages.

In place of the Obama-era non-discrimination regulations, the Trump administration is planning to release a proposed rule that would allow any program receiving HHS funding to discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion in the provision of services. The administration has defended this decision by saying that HHS grant-funding would require that programs not discriminate against those seeking their services, “to the extent doing so is prohibited by federal statute.” There are currently no explicit statutory protections concerning sexual orientation or gender identity.

This new proposed rule is a systemic violation of the basic human rights of tens of millions of people that rewards organizations for overt discrimination. Each year, HHS awards more than $500 billion in the form of grants and contracts to organizations that, if the Trump administration gets its way, can now use the tax dollars of LGBTQ Americans to refuse service to LGBTQ Americans. If this proposed rule were to go into law, HHS would be able to provide grant money to an HIV prevention organization that refused to provide services for transgender women or an adoption agency that refused to work with qualified same-sex couples looking to become parents.

It is also worth noting that this proposed rule is distinct from the administration’s “conscience rule”, which would permit health care providers to refuse to participate in abortions and other types of care that they disagree with on religious or moral grounds, and which was blocked by a federal judge earlier this week.

The proposed new rule directly undermines President Trump’s Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America earlier this year.  It additionally undermines the trust that leadership at HHS have requested from the HIV community in the rollout of the plan.  This plan also conflicts with promises that they would support LGBTQ individuals and tamp down on discriminatory policies against them and other marginalized groups that had been supported by the Trump administration.

These promises have been a hard sell among HIV advocates, including LGBTQ people of color who had seen themselves particularly vilified and ostracized by the same Trump administration that was now purporting to help them. However, despite the commission of past injustices, there were many who were willing to give the architects of the ending the epidemic plan another chance to show they had changed. As of right now, the Trump administration is squandering that chance.

AIDS United is strongly opposed to the Trump administration’s non-enforcement of existing protections for individuals based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, or religion, and will fight to prevent their proposed rule that would condone and encourage the violation of those protections. Such a rule is incompatible with any successful plan to end the HIV epidemic.

Please check back with AIDS United’s policy update regularly for more information on how to combat this discriminatory proposed rule once it is formally released.

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, November 08, 2019

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