by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
In the waning days of his embattled administration, Donald Trump found the time for a parting shot at the LGBTQ community.
New rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) strip LGBTQ people of legal protections put in place under the Obama administration.
The Obama-era rules forbid federal grant recipients from discrimination against people on the basis of age, disability, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
They also required federal grant recipients to recognize same-sex marriages.
The new rules put in place by the outgoing Trump administration abolish both protections.
Instead of the broad protections adopted by the Obama administration, the regulations will now read: "It is a public policy requirement of HHS that no person otherwise eligible will be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination in the administration of HHS programs and services, to the extent doing so is prohibited by federal statute."
The catch is that federal statute does not protect LGBTQ people from discrimination - except in employment as a result of the US Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which extends Title VII protections to LGBTQ employees.
In housing and healthcare law, however, there is no controlling Supreme Court ruling. All protections in these areas have come from rules enacted by federal departments. As a result, the new Trump rules effectively give HHS grantees the green light to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Explicit recognition of same-sex marriage has also been written out of the new HHS rules. Where the HHS regulations used to require grantees to treat same-sex marriages as valid, the rules now read: "HHS will follow all applicable Supreme Court decisions in administering its award programs."
The new language was originally floated in November, 2019, as part of a Trump administration initiative to promote "religious liberty."
Among the services likely to be affected are HIV and STI prevention programs, opioid programs, and youth homelessness services. Adoption and fostering services also come under the HSS department.
Under the new rules, faith-based adoption and fostering services that are funded by federal grants will be able to refuse to place children with families based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
The only bright side to this development is that the Trump administration will only last till January 20, after which the newly installed Biden administration can make new rules.
"At the eleventh hour, the lame-duck Trump-Pence administration has published its parting assault on the LGBT+ community via a federal regulation that would permit discrimination across the entire spectrum of HHS programs receiving federal funding," HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement.
"The Biden-Harris administration and Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra must urgently work to rescind this discriminatory regulation."