Metro Weekly

66 Congress members call on HHS to reverse rule allowing service providers to turn away LGBTQ people

Reps. Sean Maloney, Angie Craig, and Nydia Velázquez urge Acting Secretary to restore nondiscrimination protections

Sean Patrick Maloney – Photo courtesy of the Office of Rep. Maloney.

Sixty-six members of Congress have called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reverse a Trump administration rule that allows federally-funded social service providers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The members of Congress have signed onto a letter asking Acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran to reverse the rule, which would allow various forms of discrimination, such as a taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agency refusing to place children with same-sex couples, an immigrant services center refusing to support an LGBTQ refugee or asylum seeker, or a federally-funded shelter using religious beliefs opposing homosexuality to justify turning away transgender individuals.

The letter, led by U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), and Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), criticizes the Trump-era rule for “essentially ignoring the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decisions.”

“The Trump administration’s sanctioning of taxpayer-funded intolerance against people who receive services from HHS grant programs, including youth and families in the child welfare system, youth experiencing homelessness, and elder Americans, is reprehensible,” the letter reads. “During these unprecedented times we should be finding ways to support our citizens, not discriminating against them under the guise of religious liberty.”

The Trump-era rule, which was  published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, Jan. 12 and was slated to take effect on Feb. 11, was intended to allow faith-based organizations doing social service work to continue receiving federal funds even if they refuse to provide services to LGBTQ people, religious minorities, or others, and even if the work they do is not directly related to the promotion of religion.

In response to a lawsuit filed by foster youth groups and LGBTQ advocacy organizations, HHS agreed to a court order temporarily blocking the rule from taking effect, and extending that grace period by 180 days to August 10, 2021. LGBTQ advocates hope that the additional delay will give HHS the time to go through the proper procedures to change the department’s policy and reverse the Trump rule.

“Under this bigoted Trump administration rule, federally-funded foster care and adoption agencies could refuse to place a child with a married same-sex couple, making it harder for families like mine to exist,” Maloney said in a statement. “There are over 100,000 kids in the foster system ready to be adopted — they are the collateral damage in the Trump administration’s war against the LGBTQ community.

Related: Trump administration sued for refusing to enforce anti-discrimination rules

“As a gay dad with three kids, I know first-hand that good parents are good parents — it doesn’t matter what they look like or who they love,” Maloney added. “When you sanction discrimination against LGBTQ couples, you deprive kids like mine of good moms, dads, and families who will love them unconditionally.”

“The Trump administration’s eleventh-hour attack on the LGBTQ community was cruel and dangerous,” Craig said in her own statement. “As the first openly LGBTQ member of Congress from Minnesota, I thank the Biden administration for taking immediate action to pause this harmful rule. We must ensure equal protections under the law for all Americans, and I look forward to working with the Administration to do just that.”

“Even though Donald Trump is no longer in office, his administration’s bigoted and discriminatory policies towards the LGBTQ community continue to threaten the rights of folks across this country,” Velázquez said in a statement. “That’s why I’m joining my colleagues…in calling on the Acting Head of the Department of Health and Human Services to immediately reverse a dangerous rule that would end nondiscrimination protections within federal social services, such as taxpayer-funded adoption agencies and youth shelters. The federal government has a responsibility to ensure no one in this country suffers from discriminatory practices.”

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