Alex Azar, back in 2018, was sworn in as the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. Today he resigned, following a slew of other members of the Trump administration who have indicated that the January 6th storming of the Capitol was something that they wanted to distance themselves from. Despite this, the complicity that Azar shares with his former colleagues is not what tarnishes his reputation, but instead the way he fulfilled his duties up until now.
According to a 77 page report published in the federal register on January 12th, 2021 the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has finalized a rule allowing social-service providers that receive government funding to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The document states: “this rule repromulgates sections of the UAR [uniform regulations]dealing with payments, access to records, indirect allowable cost requirements, and a portion of the provision dealing with shared responsibility payments under the Affordable Care Act.”
“Even as Trump administration officials abandon ship, HHS has announced yet another dangerous rule that invites discrimination against the very people federal grant programs are meant to help,” said Sasha Buchert, senior attorney for the civil rights group Lambda Legal, in a statement.
The rule was first announced in November of 2019, though it has a long standing history with religious freedom advocates. Many of whom have shielded themselves with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which “Prohibits any agency, department, or official of the United States or any State (the government) from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” The HSS followed suit.
The report affirms that that current HHS code of regulations discriminating on the basis of age, disability, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation can no longer operate owing to its violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Which makes access to things like the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obama Care), Medicare & Medicaid Services, foster/adoption programs, and homelessness services all the more difficult.
This allows for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to no longer be a tool of liberation but instead one of discrimination.
For many this does not come as a surprise as this presents itself as yet another ill-use of power in a pattern of infringement, evident throughout Trump’s term and contemporary U.S. history. In the past the Trump administration has stopped transgendered individuals from serving in the military, denied LGBTQ+ people access to health care, proposed policies allowing federally funded homeless shelters to discriminate against transgender people and federally funded adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.
This new rule is expected to take effect on February 11th but by this time Joe Biden will be in office. Joe Biden’s relationship with LGBTQ+ rights is one that has been constantly evolving. As a congressman his views were much more moderate as seen with his anti same-sex marriage sentiments. Though, this is something that he has come to change his views on (at least in his socio-political life) as seen with his advancement of LGBTQ+ rights under the Obama Administration and his declarations of support. The Biden foundation also launched the As You Are campaign in 2018 that advocates for families to be accepting of their transgender children.
Although the Trump administration punched a hole in the wall before the reign of Donald Trump was brought to a screeching end, many are confident in future president Joe Biden and his self proclaimed “presidency for all Americans.”
The Biden Harris team has been upfront about their ideas for the future of the LGBTQ+ community but whether they will follow through or not can only be measured with time.
“Hate and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people started long before Trump and Pence took office. Defeating them will not solve the problem, but it is an essential first step in order to resume our march toward equality.”
— George Neumayr