History has just been made!
Dr. Rachel Levine has been approved by the U.S. Senate to serve under President Joe Biden as the assistant U.S. health secretary. According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the U.S. Senate voted 52-48 in approval of Levine taking on the role. This makes Dr. Rachel Levine the first openly transgender person confirmed by the chamber.
After being confirmed for the position. Dr. Levine released a statement in celebration. Though, Levine noted the importance of her appointment to LGBTQ+ people.
“As I prepare to take my oath of office and begin serving as assistant secretary for health, I would like to take this opportunity to address members of the LGBTQ community,” Levine said. “First, thank you. Only through your work and advocacy over many decades is my story possible. I am humbled to be the first transgender individual to serve in a Senate-confirmed position. As Vice President Harris has said, I recognize that I may be the first, but am heartened by the knowledge that I will not be the last.”
Senate confirms Dr. Rachel Levine for Assistant Secretary of Health, 52-48.
She is the first trans person to ever be confirmed by the Senate. pic.twitter.com/fkmdbUbdYi
— The Recount (@therecount) March 24, 2021
“Dr. Rachel Levine is a trailblazer,” Erin Uritus, the CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, said in a statement. “She is the first openly transgender person nominated to a role requiring Senate confirmation. She is a talented doctor, with the leadership skills and expertise needed to help guide our country through the pandemic into healthier, brighter days.”
Uritus then added, “I hope that transgender people — from those well into their careers to young people years from having a job — can look at Dr. Levine and see the possibility she represents. I look forward to seeing her skills in action at the federal level!”
“The importance of this moment extends well-beyond the health of our nation alone,” Annise Parker, CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute which supports LGBTQ+ politicians and political initiatives, added. “At a time when hateful politicians are weaponizing trans lives for their own perceived political gain, Dr. Levine’s confirmation lends focus to the contributions trans people make to our nation and deflates absurd arguments calling for their exclusion.”
Levine joins the Biden administration after leading the state of Pennsylvania in its response to the coronavirus pandemic. On top of that, Levine worked as a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Penn State University.
Dr. Rachel Levine’s appointment was not an easy one, however. There was strong opposition to Levine taking on the role. During her confirmation, Republican Senator Rand Paul questioned Levine on her gender reassignment surgery stance. While doing so, he related the surgeries to genital mutilation. Dr. Levine responded by saying she’d be willing to answer Paul’s questions outside the hearing room.