Trump Administration Takes Another Swipe at LGBTQ Health Protections on Way Out

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday January 14, 2021

Even as Donald Trump has acknowledged his presidency is coming to an end, his administration isn't finished attacking LGBTQ Americans, as yet another reversal of federal non-discrimination protections regarding health care and social welfare policies made abundantly clear, Human Rights Watch reports.

The new rollback took effect the day after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building, driven in part by conspiracy theories peddled by Trump, along with a number of GOP lawmakers, that falsely assert last November's elections were "rigged" to favor President-elect Joe Biden.

The change affects "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," Human Rights Watch notes.

"Previously, a federal regulation expressly prohibited health and welfare programs receiving federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity," HRW explained. "But the administration's new rule, first proposed in 2019, erases this language."

The alteration also removes what had been an overt recognition of marriage equality, HRW added.

In addition to potentially driving even greater disparities in health care for LGBTQ Americans, the rollback also affects children in need of loving homes and the same-sex couples who are willing to adopt them.

"The previous regulation was used to ensure adoption and foster care agencies who receive federal support serve all qualified parents, including same-sex couples," HRW points out. "Rolling back existing nondiscrimination protections will harm those families, as well as the many kids awaiting placement in loving and supportive homes."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State denounced the change just before it took effect. In a press release about the rollback, the watchdog group slammed the change, saying, "Rather than prioritizing the best interests of children and families, the Trump administration's new rule invites taxpayer-funded foster care agencies to discriminate against them."

The release went on to add: "Discrimination should never be funded or supported by our government, but that's exactly what this rule does. Families, senior citizens and children could lose protections against discrimination and suddenly be turned away from taxpayer-funded programs they need."

Sexual minorities are not the only people who could be affected by the rollback. Though supposedly rooted in "religious freedom," the administration's peeling away of those protections paradoxically leaves people of faith vulnerable to discriminatory treatment.

It's already happened, Americans United pointed out, referencing how one of the group's clients, Aimee Maddonna, "was turned away from helping children in foster care by a government-funded agency solely because Aimee is Catholic — the 'wrong' religion according to an evangelical Protestant agency in South Carolina."

Though it will take time for the incoming president to correct the damage that can be undone, the Trump administration's legacy will be felt for decades in the courts, which, a new report reveals, have been packed with anti-LGBTQ ideologues.

In the meantime, however, President-elect Biden has vowed to prioritize ushering the Equality Act into law in his administration's first 100 days.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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