Washington, D.C. — The new rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would put millions of Americans at risk by lifting the agency’s enforcement of comprehensive regulations designed to ensure that grantees do not use their federal dollars to advance discrimination and by replacing these regulations with weaker ones that effectively enable discrimination.
These proposed changes were put forth without any evidence to support the decision and are responsive to advocacy by several organizations that have long opposed LGBTQ equality, including the Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family.
Laura E. Durso and Sharita Gruberg—the vice president and the director of policy, respectively, for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress—recently released a column that breaks down exactly what this means for an agency that controls more than half a trillion dollars worth of federal grant money and why all Americans should be alarmed with the proposed changes. Below are some key points from the piece to help contextualize the issue.
The proposal would remove explicit nondiscrimination protections on multiple bases. A 2016 rule under the Obama administration clarified that the agency’s grantees are expected to comply with nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity when providing services; it also ensured federal protections on the basis of other nonmerit factors—beyond the Civil Rights Act’s prohibitions on race, color, and national origin discrimination—such as sex, age, disability status, and religion. The Trump administration, however, has tried to justified removing these protections by stating that beneficiaries of HHS grant programs may not be subjected to discrimination, “to the extent doing so is prohibited by federal statute.” There are currently few, if any, explicit statutory protections on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
The proposed rule also rejects the Supreme Court’s establishment of marriage equality as the law of the land. It removes requirements for grantees to abide by all Supreme Court rulings, including ones that protect the equal treatment of married same-sex couples. Instead, the proposal requires grantees to abide by all “applicable” court decisions, leaving it up to Trump appointees to determine which decisions are relevant.
The disastrous implications of the proposed rule change, if finalized as drafted, would extend far beyond the LGBTQ community. Grantees would most likely still be eligible for taxpayer dollars even if they engaged in the following forms of discrimination:
- A Jewish couple could be rejected from adopting a child on the basis of their religion.
- A gay senior could be refused services meant to assist older Americans living in their homes.
- An unmarried woman could be denied supportive services for her child.
- A transgender person living with HIV could be denied services critical to managing their health.
For more examples, and a detailed explanation of what this proposed rule change would mean to the millions of people who depend on HHS grants, read the full column here.
For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Adam Peck at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcepa or 202-741-6363.