Today, Dr. Rachel Levine has made history, shattering a lavender ceiling.
After having a contentious confirmation hearing rife with transphobia from Republicans like Rand Paul in February, Levine is now the first out trans person to be Senate-confirmed for a position in the federal government. Levine was nominated to be the assistant secretary of health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by President Joe Biden. She now joins Buttigieg in having been confirmed as Buttigieg was the first Senate-confirmed out Cabinet member. They both follow in a trail first blazed by Roberta Achtenberg who was the first out LGBTQ+ person ever confirmed by the Senate.
"Dr. Rachel Levine is a trailblazer," Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, said in a statement the day of Levine's hearing. "She is the first openly transgender person nominated to a role requiring Senate confirmation. She is a talented doctor, with the leadership skills and expertise needed to help guide our country through the pandemic into healthier, brighter days."
Levine is also now the highest-ranking out trans person to ever serve in federal government.
“I hope that transgender people — from those well into their careers to young people years from having a job — can look at Dr. Levine and see the possibility she represents," Uritus continued. "I look forward to seeing her skills in action at the federal level!”
Levine joins the role from her position as Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, having stepped down in January. She became a public face of the state's response to the ongoing global pandemic but was a respected figure prior, having graduated from Harvard and having been first unanimously confirmed as Pennsylvania's physician general in 2015 by a Republican-controlled Senate. Before that, she began her medical career as a pediatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
"Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond," Biden said in a statement when he nominated her. "She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”
Levine's nomination had been held up in the senate but Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski broke ranks with other Republicans in order to invoke cloture, and advance Levine's nomination to a vote. As a result, the vote to advance the nomination and break the filibuster was 52-48. The Senators voted in a similar way on confirmation, with Collins and Murkowski voting for Levine.