Trump Administration Launches 11th Hour Attack Against LGBTQ People, Women, Religious Minorities with Final HHS Regulation

by Viet Tran

The Human Rights Campaign responded to news that at the 11th hour the lame duck Trump-Pence White House finalized a regulation that would permit discrimination against LGBTQ people, religious minorities and women in programs related to foster care, adoption, HIV and STI prevention, youth homelessness, refugee resettlement, elder care programs and more.

At the 11th hour, the lame duck Trump-Pence administration has published its parting assault on the LGBTQ community via a federal regulation that would permit discrimination across the entire spectrum of HHS programs receiving federal funding. The Biden-Harris administration and Secretary Designate Xavier Becerra must urgently work to rescind this discriminatory regulation.

Alphonso David, President, Human Rights Campaign

This is the latest action since Trump and Pence took office that grants HHS recipients a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and women:

  • In May 2017, the Trump-Pence White House put out an executive order mandating the Department of Justice to work agency by agency to regulatorily create broad exemptions allowing faith-based organizations to discriminate against those who do not agree with their personal beliefs.
  • In January 2019, Trump-Pence’s HHS granted a waiver from federal nondiscrimination requirements to South Carolina’s Foster Care Program, which has contracted with a child welfare provider who seeks permission to refuse to serve prospective parents who do not share their religious beliefs, but who want to continue to receive federal funding to provide those services. South Carolina requested the waiver to allow federal funds to go to a child welfare agency that refused to work with Jewish and Catholic people who were otherwise eligible to support children in need.
  • This continues a pattern of citing court decisions unrelated to nondiscrimination laws to justify stripping away protections for LGBTQ people and others.

In 2017, HRC released a report, titled Disregarding the Best Interest of the Child: License to Discriminate In Child Welfare Services, detailing the harms of efforts to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination by child welfare agencies into law. Statistics suggest that an estimated two million LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are interested in adoption, but the LGBTQ community often remains an untapped resource when it comes to finding families for children and youth in foster care. The report debunks the myth that having more providers is the key to higher rates of placement in homes; the bottleneck is not the number of providers, but the number of prospective parents. Where providers have ceased to provide services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws, placement rates did not decrease significantly as a result.

Further, research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care. This regulation would only exacerbate these challenges faced by LGBTQ young people.

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