In the aftermath of the MAGA riots, Donald Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule that would allow the recipients of the federal department’s grant money – including adoption and fostering agencies – to discriminate against LGBTQ people and other religions.
The final rule was issued on Thursday this week, dropping Obama-era rules that banned recipients HHS grants from discriminating based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. The rule change also removes a requirement that grantees “treat as valid the marriages of same-sex couples.”
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In November 2019, Trump’s HHS gave public notice that they were going to remove the protections. The protections most notably affect adoption and foster agencies. The Trump administration has long tried to extend religious exemptions to agencies that have said they may refuse to operate if they’re forced to work with same-sex couples or parents of minority religions.
That same year, HHS waived its anti-discrimination rules for a South Carolina foster agency that didn’t want to place children with families that didn’t meet the organization’s religious standards.
“Thanks to President Trump, charities will be free to care for needy children and operate according to their religious beliefs and the reality that children do best in a home with a married mom and dad,” Tony Perkins of the designated hate group Family Research Council said when the rule was first proposed.
“The federal government should protect our country’s most vulnerable people instead of issuing rules that license discrimination,” Rachel Laser of the Americans United for Separation of Church & State said. “People should never be turned away from the services they need. That is especially true for children in foster care and the families who want to provide them with loving, safe homes.”
“Discrimination should never be funded or supported by our government, but that’s exactly what this rule does.”
But the rule also affects many health and homelessness programs, including funding for programs related to HIV and addiction.
When the administration announced that it was seeking to remove the Obama era protections in 2019, it also said that it would stop enforcing them. This sparked a federal lawsuit in March 2020 as organizations claimed that it would be used to deny federal services to LGBTQ people.
“A federally funded adult daycare provider could put a sign on the door saying, ‘No Trans People May Enter,’” the organizations that filed the suit said.
HHS defended the rule change saying that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not require them to ban discrimination against LGBTQ people. If Joe Biden and the Democratic Congress manage to pass the Equality Act – which will add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights legislation – then this rule would have to be changed back.
The rule goes into effect next month.
“Even as Trump administration officials abandon ship, HHS has announced yet another dangerous rule that invites discrimination against the very people federal grant programs are meant to help,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Sasha Buchert said. “We call on the Biden-Harris administration to address discriminatory policies such as these immediately and commit to eliminating them root and branch.”