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A day after the Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to strengthen protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Adm. Rachel L. Levine, assistant secretary for health, said the move represents another important step toward securing more equitable care.

“We had been making progress under the Obama administration but had lost ground in the previous administration,” Levine, the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate for federal office, said in a STATUS List Spotlight series conversation Tuesday. “And it’s great to see us bouncing back.”


Under the Trump administration, a 2020 HHS ruling eliminated a provision that included gender identity and “termination of pregnancy” among the protected groups that health care providers cannot discriminate against. Levine referred to the previous administration’s actions as “disinterpretation” and said the Biden administration’s interpretation is that “when it says that you cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, then that means you cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Levine added that the HHS Office for Civil Rights will take cases “from people who feel that they are being discriminated against because of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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