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As a former director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management under President Barack Obama, I oversaw the federal government’s 2-million-strong civilian workforce on everything from human resource policy to retirement benefits to health care. This included implementation of all regulations outlined in the Affordable Care Act, including Section 1557 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health programs or activities.
This section covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity, but the Trump-Pence White House has needlessly proposed a new regulation that would cruelly strip the ACA of specific protections for LGBTQ patients, specifically transgender people. This proposed regulation callously puts lives at risk, and it’s imperative the American people make their voices heard on why this it is dangerous and unacceptable.
On June 14, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a proposed regulation based on a court's outrageous claim that the ACA's protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity is “likely unlawful.” This initiated a 60-day public comment period that runs through Aug. 12. In a press release sent out by HHS, Roger Severino, the Director of the department's Office of Civil Rights, offered this ratonale: “When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform.”
Denying care over personal beliefs
This is a bad faith and incorrect view of “sex discrimination,” but it’s unsurprising coming from Mr. Severino. His long history of attacking the civil rights of LGBTQ people and women includes calling same-sex marriage part of a “radical” agenda, defending the abusive practice of so-called “conversion therapy, and espousing anti-choice opinions, even at the expense of an individual’s health care. He has said that being LGBTQ is “against your biology” and stated that sexual orientation, when compared to race, is an issue of “character.”
This is not a person who prioritizes the health and safety of all Americans but, rather, consistently seeks to push his personal beliefs on the citizens who look to him for quality and safety in our their health care system.
Over the past two decades, federal courts have made it clear that sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers LGBTQ people due to discrimination based on sex stereotyping. Numerous federal agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, have reaffirmed this interpretation and incorporated it into their policies.
Simply put, there is longstanding precedent for ensuring LGBTQ people, particularly transgender people, are free from discrimination in health care spaces, which makes this administration’s attacks on the medical access of LGBTQ people all the more heinous.
Don't inflict harm on LGBTQ people
All medical access for all LGBTQ people and their loved ones is affected by this proposed regulation and the blanket "religious freedom" exemptions it would offer: a gay man who goes into the emergency room with a broken arm, a lesbian with cancer, a bisexual person with diabetes, a trans child getting immunizations prior to the start of the school year. This regulation goes against everything medical science has fought to make clear: that the right to health cannot be obfuscated by the political or social beliefs of others.
In a 2009 survey echoed in later studies, Lambda Legal found that 56% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people and 70% of transgender and gender non-conforming people reported experiencing discrimination by health care providers — including refusal of care, harsh language and physical roughness because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a free society that places human rights and life above personal beliefs and petty differences, that is unacceptable.
It is imperative the public submit comments urging the Trump-Pence White House and HHS to abandon this reckless proposed regulation that would inflict cruel and unnecessary harm on marginalized communities.
Katherine Archuleta is a founding partner at Dimension Strategies and was the director of the Office of Personnel Management under President Barack Obama. Follow her on Twitter: @Archuleta2012
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gay, transgender health would be at risk under Trump Obamacare change