June 19, 2020 at 10:43 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Rep. Kennedy urges Trump administration to revoke anti-trans health care rule
Rep. Joseph Kennedy III is calling on the Trump administration to revoke to anti-trans health care rule. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.) is leading the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus in calling on the Trump administration to revoke its recent rule enabling anti-transgender discrimination in health care, calling the policy “indefensible” in the aftermath of the recent Supreme Court decision for LGBTQ rights.

In the letter dated June 18 obtained exclusively by the Washington Blade, the lawmakers made good use of the ruling in Bostock, which found anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, thus illegal under federal civil rights law.

Additionally, the lawmakers say the issuance of the Department of Health & Human Services rule is “misguided and shocking for multiple reasons.”

“[Y]our department pursued this replacement despite an overwhelming record within your agency showing the widespread and devastating harms of discrimination in healthcare for millions of LGBT Americans, and especially for transgender people, who often face the most aggressively hostile treatment, harassment, denials of care and other forms of discrimination at grossly disproportionate rates,” the letter says.

In addition to Kennedy, lawmakers who signed the letter are each of the openly members of the U.S. House: Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Sharice Davids (D-Kansas) and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.).

HHS made final last week a rule undoing an Obama-era regulation interpreting Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in health care, to cases of discrimination based on transgender status and sex stereotyping. As a result of the Trump administration reversing that Obama-era rule, medical practitioners will be free to refuse to services to transgender people, including transition-related care and gender reassignment surgery.

Although lower trial courts had enjoined the U.S. government from enforcing the Obama-era rule, effectively rendering it moot, the Supreme Court decision in favor of LGBTQ rights trumps those injunctions, making the policy instituted by the Trump administration in violation of the law.

The lawmakers also draw on the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 100,000 people in the United States and is projected to kill 200,000 by September, in opposition to the Trump administration policy.

“It is well known that these horrifying figures represent to a wildly disproportionate degree the lives of Americans who already suffered from health disparities correlated to invidious discrimination and poverty,” the letter says. “LGBT people, people of color, and LGBT people of color make up an outsized share of those we have lost.”

The White House has signaled the Justice Department would lead an interagency in effort in implementation of the Bostock decision. HHS didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the letter from lawmakers.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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