Trump is ‘declaring war’ on the LGBT community by appointing this man to defend trans rights, groups say
Donald Trump has appointed someone who opposes trans people’s right to healthcare to defend trans people’s rights to healthcare, prompting anger and dismay from LGBTQ+ groups.
Roger Severino has been made head of the department of health’s Office of Civil Rights, a division which ensures people are not stopped from getting healthcare by prejudices of providers.
Severino has long campaigned on the basis that a law which prohibits discrimination in federal healthcare – Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act – should not be applied to trans people.
He has even called the efforts of agencies such as OCR to protect trans people from discrimination an “abuse of power” wielded “to coerce everyone…into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.”
In a letter signed by seven different LGBTQ+ organisations, JoDee Winterhof, a senior vice president at the Human Rights Campaign, wrote: “Once again, Donald Trump is declaring war against our community by appointing anti-LGBTQ people at all levels of his administration.
“I could not think of a more dangerous person to head up the Office of Civil Rights at HHS,” she added.
Severino, a former director of education secretary Betsy DeVos’s family’s Centre for Religion and Civil Society, called trans women “biological men” in an article last year.
In that same article, he propagated the widely discredited idea that gender-neutral bathrooms could be “abused by non-transgender people,” saying they were “not unfounded fears”.
He has also been a fierce opponent of access to contraception and other reproductive services, including calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
The appointment can be compared to that of Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency 14 times, to the position of EPA head.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Centre for Transgender Equality, said that by appointing Severino, Trump had “once again put the fox in charge of the hen house.”
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Severino has “made attacking women’s and LGBT people’s access to healthcare one of the centerpieces of his career,” she added.
“His baseless claims about protections for transgender people – repeated over and over without any regard for the consequences on transgender people’s lives – betray a fundamental misunderstanding of federal civil rights laws, medical science and the reality of what it means to be transgender.”
Keisling said Severino “takes pride in being a stark opponent of the LGBTQ community and has made it clear that his number one priority is to vilify and degrade us.
“We will fight tooth and nail against any attempts to roll back civil rights, including access to health care,” she pledged.
Winnie Stachelberg, executive vice president for external affairs of Centre for American Progress, said the decision was “sick”.
“Severino’s writing makes it clear that he wants to take us back to the days when 1 in 4 transgender people was refused medical care outright,” she added.