As we wage through a pandemic and look forward to the 2020 Presidential Election, it appears the current Trump administration is taking a swipe at LGBTQ people.
According to Politico, the Trump administration is working to rewrite an Obama-era policy that protects LGBTQ patients from discrimination. The policy in question is Obamacare’s Section 1557 provision, which bars health care discrimination based on sex and gender identity. The policy also extended protections for women who had abortions.
Many health experts and LGBTQ advocacy groups have condemned this push of action as it could leave LGBTQ people vulnerable during the pandemic. With some coronavirus treatment centers being run by religious groups, like the one in New York City’s Central Park. Local politicians have expressed worry after religious groups turning away LGBTQ people based on their calls for “religious freedom.”
“COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, and neither should Franklin Graham,” openly gay NY State Sen. Brad Hoylman stated after hearing of Central Park Field Hospital run by anti-gay Christian group Samaritan’s Purse. “It’s unacceptable that a New Yorker infected with COVID-19 could be subjected to discriminatory treatment from an organization whose leader calls us ‘immoral’ and ‘detestable.’
“Sadly, beggars can’t be choosers: New York needs every ventilator we can get,” Hoylman added. “But homophobic pastor Franklin Graham and his field hospital operation in Central Park must guarantee all LGBTQ patients with COVID-19 are treated with dignity and respect. We’ll be watching.”
But now, the Trump administration is attempting to pave the way for organizations like Samaritan’s Purse to outright reject LGBTQ patients.
“If the final rule is anything like the proposed rule, HHS is adopting changes that would be harmful in the best of times but that are especially cruel in the midst of a global pandemic that is disproportionately affecting vulnerable communities and exacerbating disparities,” said Katie Keith, a lawyer and Georgetown professor, to Politico.
According to a spokesperson for the Federal Health Department, they are just keeping up with the rulings of a federal judge in 2016. At the time, the judge blocked the Obama-era protections after a lawsuit was filed by religious groups.
“A federal court has vacated the gender identity provisions of the regulation and we are abiding by that court order,” an HHS spokesperson said. “We do not comment on the rulemaking process and refer you to recent public filings made by the Department of Justice before the Supreme Court on what constitutes sex discrimination under civil rights laws.”
When these rewrites do come to pass, there’s still hope of a fight against the change. The Supreme Court is set to rule on whether the Civil Rights Act protects LGTBQ workers. If they see it so, a new regulatory framework could come to pass. This would then protect LGBTQ workers from the religious freedom push (at least, for a moment).