January 23, 2015 at 11:53 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Hogan criticized for delaying Medicaid discrimination regulation

Larry Hogan, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is already facing criticism from the state’s LGBT rights advocates over his decision to delay the implementation of a regulation that bans anti-LGBT discrimination in the state’s Medicaid program. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT rights advocates have criticized Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for delaying the implementation of a regulation that will prohibit state Medicaid providers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene last November approved the change to the Code of Maryland Regulations. Equality Maryland and Free State Legal Project noted at the time the state’s transgender rights law that former Gov. Martin O’Malley signed took effect on Oct. 1.

Hogan announced he would postpone the final implementation of the regulation on the same day he took office.

“To withdraw a regulation that prohibits discrimination in the provision of essential medical services, which also has no fiscal impact, seems contrary to the spirit of inclusiveness touted in his inauguration speech yesterday,” said Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, in a statement her group and Free State Legal Project released on Thursday. “We know that trans people in Maryland face discrimination when accessing health care and we should be working to ensure this doesn’t happen instead of overtly condoning it.”

The Baltimore Sun reported the Medicare regulation is among the five that Hogan pulled before they had been scheduled to appear in the Maryland Register on Friday.

Free State Legal Project Deputy Director Jer Welter noted to the Washington Blade the Republican governor’s decision to delay implementation of the Medicare regulation will have no effect on the state’s trans rights law.

Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, agreed.

“The anti-discrimination provisions are the law,” she told the Blade. “A supportive and decent governor would update the rules to make the law clear for the agencies.”

A Hogan spokesperson on Thursday did not return the Blade’s request for comment.

“We just basically pulled all the regulations that were supposed to be published on Friday,” Hogan told the Baltimore Sun. “We didn’t like the fact that [O’Malley] was trying to push these things through at the last minute. We’re going to make sure our new…team throughout government reviews every one of these regulations to make sure which direction we should head.”

Hogan during his campaign against then-Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown said he did not support the trans rights law that O’Malley signed last May. Hogan stressed during an interview with News Talk with Bruce DePuyt last August that he would not seek to repeal Maryland’s same-sex marriage law, noting his position on the issue has “evolved.”

Hogan’s decision to appoint state lawmakers and other officials to his transition team who had previously made anti-LGBT statements sparked controversy among some advocates.

Blair Lee, a Silver Spring developer, in 2012 described gay sex as a “mortal sin” in a column against Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that he wrote for the Gazette newspapers. The Montgomery County Democrat in a 2006 column compared gays to pedophiles and serial killers.

State Sen. Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) claimed in a 2012 op-ed he wrote for the Herald-Mail newspaper that marriage rights for same-sex couples would jeopardize religious freedom in Maryland. Hogan earlier this month appeared at an event that Shank and state Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) hosted.

Parrott last spring spearheaded an ultimately unsuccessful effort to collect enough signatures to prompt a referendum on the trans rights law. The Washington County Republican attended a 2012 rally against Maryland’s same-sex marriage law during which a pastor said Superstorm Sandy struck New York City after then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $250,000 to the campaign that was defending the statute.

Hogan omits gender identity from first executive order

Hogan did not specifically mention LGBT rights during his inaugural speech.

“Too often, we see wedge politics and petty rhetoric used to belittle adversaries and inflame partisan divisions,” said the governor. “I believe that Maryland is better than this. Our history proves that we are better than this. It is only when the partisan shouting stops that we can hear each other’s voices and concerns.”

Hogan specifically mentioned sexual orientation in his first executive order that outlines ethics standards for executive branch employees.

Both Evans and Welter criticized the governor for not including gender identity and expression in his mandate.

“The issuance of an executive order directing executive branch employees to ‘adhere to all applicable laws and regulations that provide equal opportunity for all Marylanders’ is a good thing and we commend the governor for reminding his staff of the applicable laws and regulations,” said Welter in a statement. “However, those laws now include gender identity and we urge him to re-issue this order with all of the current prohibited grounds included in state law.”

Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, scoffed at these criticisms.

“Give the man a chance — it’s been 24 hours,” Angelo told the Blade.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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