As is now customary, the Trump administration unveiled on Friday one of its government’s most conservative and extremist regulations — and that’s saying a lot.
According to the New York Times, the rule finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services “will erase protections” for transgender patients against discrimination by doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies.
The grim decision to remove legal protections around discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation was cynically announced on the four-year anniversary of the Pulse massacre in Orlando and in the middle of Pride Month, and is part of a series of initiatives by the Trump administration to take away, one by one, the rights that the trans community has achieved over the past decade, including education, housing, employment, and health care.
The measure also is part of the government’s effort to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which has been Trump’s arch-rival since his 2015 campaign, and which coincidentally established “broad civil rights protections” in health care, and prohibited discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in “any health care program or activity receiving federal financial assistance,” the Times adds.
Despite efforts by Roger Severino, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, to argue the decision as “equivalent to housekeeping,” the reality is that, when it comes to bias, this administration is transparent.
“It’s really, really horrendous to not only gut nondiscrimination protections, but to gut nondiscrimination protections in the middle of a pandemic,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, to the media. “This rule opens a door for a medical provider to turn someone away for a COVID-19 test just because they happen to be transgendered.”
For its part, one of the most important advocacy groups in the LGBTQ+ community, the Human Rights Campaign, responded immediately:
“We will not let this attack on our basic right to be free from discrimination in health care go unchallenged. We will see them in court, and continue to challenge all of our elected officials to rise up against this blatant attempt to erode critical protections people need and sanction discrimination,” the organization said in a statement.
Mr. Severino, who spent seven years in civil-rights enforcement at the Justice Department and once oversaw the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, said that the Trump administration would defend the decision in court.
Similarly, and to make matters worse, the rule was issued a week or two before the Supreme Court is expected to relay its ruling on whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, The New Yorker explained.
While there is a possibility that the Court will rule that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, or both, constitutes sex discrimination — which is prohibited by Title VII, making the document issued by the Trump Administration on Friday “legally irrelevant” — there is also a risk of the opposite.
And the issue seems to be one of pure demagogy.
“That the Administration decided to speak now suggests that it was rushing to raise its voice in favor of discrimination before the Supreme Court either preempted or weakened the rhetorical impact of the rule,” The New Yorker adds. “The H.H.S. document is a statement not of policy but of hatred. Its message is amplified by its appearance on the anniversary of the largest mass murder of queer people in U.S. history. This was the day the Administration chose to try to inhibit L.G.B.T. people’s access to health care — in the middle of a deadly pandemic.”