In a move that's surprising to no one, Donald Trump and his administration continue to backtrack on the progress that was made under the Obama administration to protect LGBTQ citizens from discrimination within the realm of healthcare. Despite professions of support from Trump when he was running for office back in 2016, the truth behind his stance on LGBTQ rights has been shown through his most recent actions.
Staff within the Department of Health and Human Services have voiced a concern over some of the newly appointed officials to senior roles within the department, citing that many have openly expressed anti-LGBTQ sentiments in the past, Politico reports.
One new appointee, Roger Severino, who had notably opposed same-sex marriage in 2016, recently stated that his past comments "are not binding on what I do in my role as a public servant," and yet many LGBTQ advocates say they have largely been ignored after one initial "listening session" was conducted by Severino.
Additionally, the Trump Administration has rolled back a regulation under the Affordable Care Act that banned discrimination in health care based on sexual orientation. Trump's latest mandate reinterpreted the regulation and pushed for the health agency's "Conscience and Religious Freedom Division." This new division will provide protections for health care providers who do not want to treat LGBTQ patients—a complete reversal of the regulation's initial mandate.
Other subtle changes are occurring within the HHS as well, and many staffers who worked within the department previously, are being reassigned and replaced with Trump's picks. Notably, Elliot Kennedy, who was the senior advisor for LGBTQ health and led a committee to review LGBTQ policies within the HHS, has been reassigned to a disease prevention division in Maryland. The Trump administration has also worked to remove questions regarding sexual orientation from HHS surveys which serve to understand and assess disparities among LGBTQ health issues.
These divisive changes all contribute to the underhanded actions of the Trump administration's effort to enact a complete reversal of the policies mandated under President Obama. Actions like the reappointment of officials within the Human and Health Services Department, and the reinterpretation of regulations that once served a discriminated community to fit his own political agenda mark a departure from a true focus on providing unbiased public health services.
A researcher from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Kellan Baker, has worked with the HHS for a decade, and said, “It’s only a matter of time before all the gains made under the Obama administration are reversed under the Trump administration, for purposes that have nothing to do with public health and have everything to do with politics.”