This week has been awash in news surrounding the invasion of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump, who used Twitter to tell them when to gather, as well as the fallout. Civilians and law enforcement have died from their involvement, and the U.S. House of Representatives is primed to launch another impeachment. Many are also pushing Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would remove Trump immediately from office — others, like Lady Gaga, are not a fan of this option. But while this has rightfully been getting a majority of the headlines — as well as Trump's ongoing deplatforming by major social media networks — the Trump administration has been pushing forward its assault on LGBTQ+ rights and protections.
First introduced in November 2019, Trump's Department of Health and Human Services has put in place a new rule that will allow government-funded faith-based organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ+ folks as well as others. The rule could have implications for many communities by, in short, rolling back a 2016 Obama-era regulation.
The HHS went public with the rule change on Thursday that erases Obama regulation that made each organization that received a grant from the department "treat as valid the marriages of same-sex couples."
“Given the careful balancing of rights, obligations, and goals in the public-private partnerships in federal grant programs, the department believes it appropriate to impose only those nondiscrimination requirements required by the Constitution and federal statutes applicable to the department’s grantees,” the federal rule says. It has not been made clear yet that LGBTQ+ discrimination is protected by those statutes.
Notably, there is a Supreme Court case currently awaiting judgement concerning this very situation: in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the religious organization is suing the city for ending their contract. The city ended the contract once it had been made aware that Catholic Social Services discriminated against same-sex couples when placing foster children. Catholic Social Services argued that this is an infringement on their First Amendment rights, and the case rose to the Supreme Court as the latest in a string of moves that could prize the perceived rights of religious bigots over various communities.
As we pointed out in November, the new HHS move has implications for youth experiencing homelessness, HIV and STI prevention programs, as well as substance use recovery programs. At the time, a press release from the National Center of Transgender Equality the rule will “allow anti-transgender discrimination in HIV and STI prevention programs, opioid programs, youth homelessness services, health professional training, substance use recovery programs,” among several other services addressing crises with a “disparate impact on transgender people in the US.”
The Human Rights Campaign points out that this could go further, permitting discrimination against religious minorities and women as well. The organization has vowed to fight the policy.
Some might believe that the Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which came down this year, might protect these communities from discrimination. As Washington Blade notes, that ruling "doesn’t apply to federal programs, such as HHS grants, because Title VI doesn’t bar sex discrimination in federal programs."