With less than two weeks left in office, the administration of US President Donald Trump has finalized yet another rule rolling back nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people seeking the services of health and welfare programs funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Previously, a federal regulation expressly prohibited health and welfare programs receiving federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But the administration’s new rule, first proposed in 2019, erases this language. It also deletes a requirement that recipients recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, replacing it with a generic statement that the US Department of Health and Human Services will respect Supreme Court decisions.
The previous regulation was used to ensure adoption and foster care agencies who receive federal support serve all qualified parents, including same-sex couples. Rolling back existing nondiscrimination protections will harm those families, as well as the many kids awaiting placement in loving and supportive homes.
In 2019, Human Rights Watch argued that these changes threatened children’s rights as well as families’ freedom from discrimination and right to health. We’ve previously documented how these types of changes can function as a license to discriminate, shutting LGBT people out of health and welfare services that should be open to all.
In the coming weeks, Congress should swiftly reject this regressive rule. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to disapprove of a recently enacted regulation and, with the president’s signature, prevent it from taking effect. With an upcoming presidential transition, the US government should take this opportunity to make clear again that the programs it funds are open to all qualified people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.