March 4, 2021 at 11:44 am EST | by Chris Johnson
66 House Dems call for reinstating HHS regs against anti-LGBTQ discrimination
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is leading a group of 66 lawmakers in calling for restoration of LGBTQ regulations for HHS grantees. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A group of 66 House Democrats are issuing a call to the Biden administration to reinstate regulations barring anti-LGBTQ discrimination among federal grantees of the Department of Health & Human Services, including in adoption programs.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), one of seven openly gay members of the U.S. House, spearheaded the March 4 letter with Reps. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), the only openly lesbian mom in Congress, and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.).

As the letter notes, the Trump administration quietly rescinded the Obama-era regulations against anti-LGBTQ discrimination among HHS grantees, which applies to social services and adoption programs, after the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in the final weeks of the administration.

“The Trump administration’s sanctioning of taxpayer-funded intolerance against people who receive services from HHS grant programs, including youth and families in the child welfare system, youth experiencing homelessness, and elder Americans, is reprehensible,” the letter says.

Without the Obama-era regulations, as the letter notes, adoption and foster care agencies could obtain taxpayer funds, but refuse to place child in LGBTQ homes or discriminate against LGBTQ youth. Further, a transgender teen could be turned away at an HHS-funded shelter, the letter says.

“During these unprecedented times we should be finding ways to support our citizens, not discriminating against them under the guise of religious liberty,” the letter says.

The Biden administration has already agreed to halt implementation of the Trump-era change as a result of a lawsuit filed by LGBTQ advocacy organizations. The effective date was extended by 180 days to August 2021. In the lawsuit, the U.S. Justice Department had signaled the Biden administration intends to restore the Obama-era regulations at some time.

“We applaud the Biden-Harris administration for hitting pause on this harmful Trump-era rule, and it is our sincere hope that your agency will move forward expeditiously to ensure that all persons receive equal treatment under the law,” the letter says.

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a case that will determine whether Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia has a First Amendment right to reject same-sex couples in foster care out of religious objections and still obtain taxpayer funds via a contract with the City of Philadelphia. A decision in this case, which may have bearing on adoption and foster care regardless of any administrative regulations, could come any day and is expected before June.

The Washington Blade has placed a call in with HHS seeking comment on the letter.

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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