Transgender health care protections reversed by Trump administration

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Roger Severino, who directs the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services, has long argued that "sex discrimination" protections in the Affordable Care Act aren't meant to encompass protections for transgender people. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

In a setback for special status and rights for people who want to pretend they are the opposite gender, or at least not their own natural-born sex, the Trump administration on June 12 finalized a rule removing nondiscrimination protection for LGBTQ people in the area of health care and health insurance, reports NPR.

“HHS respects the dignity of every human being, and as we have shown in our response to the pandemic, we vigorously protect and enforce the civil rights of all to the fullest extent permitted by our laws as passed by Congress,” said Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services, in a written statement announcing that the HHS rule had been finalized. The rule goes into effect in mid-August.

It is one of many rules and regulations put forward by the Trump administration that defines “sex discrimination” as only applying when someone faces discrimination for being female or male, and does not protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Backers of the new rule said it is a needed reversal of Obama-era executive overreach and will clarify the legal meaning of “sex discrimination.” Critics argue the rule could further harm what they continue to contend is a vulnerable group in nedd of special protection — transgender people — in the midst of a pandemic and media-inflamed unrest spurred by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

“I can’t help but wonder if the timing [of this rule] is by design so that this is something that people won’t pay attention to,” said Tia Sherèe Gaynor, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati.

The rule focuses on nondiscrimination protections laid out in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. That federal law established that it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health programs and activities.” In 2016, an Obama-era rule explained that protections regarding “sex” encompass those based on gender identity, which it defined as “male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female.”

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