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Don't let them hide it: Trump, Pence are stripping LGBTQ rights again
Under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic, the administration is continuing to harm the health and well-being of queer people.
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Late last week, as the media were focused on the grim realities of a global pandemic killing tens of thousands of Americans — and on the president’s pure insanity, such as suggesting people inject themselves with disinfectant — the Trump administration was making it easier for doctors, nurses and hospitals to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
As Politico reported, the Health and Human Services Department was finalizing steps it began taking last year to remove provisions in the Affordable Care Act explicitly banning discrimination against LGBTQ people. This has been part of a major effort by President Donald Trump and profoundly anti-LGBTQ Vice President Mike Pence, as they push the extremist agenda of radical religious conservatives.
Think about it. In the middle of a global health crisis of unfathomable proportions, in which minorities and underserved communities are bearing the brunt, Trump and his administration, rather than make sure all get the care they need, are brutally bowing to theocrats.
That an administration would let doctors, nurses, mental health professionals and hospitals discriminate at any time is unconscionable; during a pandemic it’s deadly. It’s an admission that Trump and Pence believe queer lives are expendable.
LGBTQ people, like other minorities, are less likely to have access to coronavirus testing — already something woefully unavailable to the vast majority of Americans — and to basic health care to protect themselves, as noted in a policy paper by Sean Cahill, public policy director of Boston’s Fenway Institute of Fenway Health. As a population, he notes, LGBTQ people are “less likely to be connected to regular health care and routine and preventative health care.” That’s why over 100 organizations signed a letter written by the LGBT Cancer Network focused on the particular vulnerabilities for LGBTQ people with regard to coronavirus.
And of course there are all of the other health issues regularly facing LGBTQ Americans, exacerbated because of discrimination. The Center for American Progress found that 8% of LGBTQ people said they were turned away from health care because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Transgender people have felt the brunt of this, as even noted by the National Institutes of Health.
The Trump administration callously told Politico in response to the action that there is actually no provision in Obamacare to “scrap” since a judge had already ruled last year that the anti-discrimination provision based on gender identity specifically is unconstitutional — in a case conservative groups brought in Texas, in which right-wing Judge Reed O’Connor said the rule was a violation of “religious liberties.” This is the same judge who eventually ruled the entirety of Obamacare unconstitutional, a case still pending in federal courts. (The Supreme Court will rule in coming months on whether or not both sexual orientation or gender identity or both are protected classes in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.)
Roger Severino, appointed by Trump as director of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS, strenuously defended the administration’s commitment to protecting civil rights, even as he’s writing new rules to exclude LGBTQ people. This is a man who has defended “ex-gay” therapy, said same-sex marriage was “just the start” of the “radical left” attempt to impose “a radical new gender ideology,” and has viciously attacked transgender people.
We’ve seen the greatest threat in history to the rights of LGBTQ under Donald Trump in the past three and half years. And now, desperate as he sinks in public opinion polls in the midst of his re-election campaign, he’s hellbent on giving more to his evangelical base, under cover of a global health and economic catastrophe.
But the reckless and incompetent response by Trump-Pence to coronavirus can’t be allowed to hide his continued assault on the lives of LGBTQ Americans.