Under Trump, HHS rolls back policies aimed at protecting LGBT rights

Once in power, the Trump administration moved quickly last year to freeze or roll back a number of LGBT-friendly rules. (Image: Sarah Stierch/CC BY 4.0)

Though President Donald Trump promised to support LGBT causes during the 2016 campaign, under his watch the Department of Health and Human Services had rolled back several initiatives aimed at protecting the rights of that population.

Once in power, the administration moved quickly last year to freeze or roll back a number of LGBT-friendly rules, Politico reported. Those included:

  • A regulation that would have allowed transgender HHS staff more protections when using the department's bathrooms and other facilities.
  • New proposed regulations that would have further banned discrimination in Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which banned sexual-orientation-based discrimination in healthcare and extended those protections to transgender individuals for the first time.

And earlier this year, the administration issued a proposed rule that would provide new protections for healthcare workers who have moral objections to treating transgender patients. Supporters of the proposal say it promotes religious freedom, but critics argue it’s simply “paving the way for discrimination.”

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The Trump administration also tried to remove questions about sexual orientation from two HHS surveys that are used to help share policy for older and disabled Americans, the article noted. It added some of the questions back in after facing backlash.

In a statement to Politico, White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said the administration’s policies are “intended to improve the lives of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community.”

Roger Severino, HHS’ top civil rights official, also held a listening session with LGBT advocates last April, though those same advocates say it was a “one-shot deal” and he hasn’t followed up with them since.

With Alex Azar now taking the helm as the department’s secretary, however, some are hopeful that HHS will move in a more LGBT-friendly direction. When Azar was in charge of drugmaker Eli Lilly, the company won accolades for its commitment to protecting LGBT rights—including opposing an Indiana law that some worried would lead to discrimination.

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