Newly drafted plan for Dept. of HHS bolsters “religious liberty,” damning proper LGBT needs

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, released a statement after President Trump accepted the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. “After decades of targeting marginalized communities for his own profit, karma finally caught up with Tom Price,” she said. “It’s a relief that an anti-LGBTQ activist like Price was removed from the Trump administration’s highest ranks, but LGBTQ Americans must remain vigilant and prepare for the next nomination — as they could bring the same discriminatory agenda as the rest of the president’s picks.”

But before flying the coop last week for ridicule over using an exuberant amount of taxpayer-funded flights on charter and military planes, Price drafted a “strategic plan” for his successor. While the draft references “faith” or “faith-based” organizations more than 40 times in its five-year statement of priorities, it also excludes any mention of LGBT health, according to POLITICO.

The emphasis on faith-based groups reflects President Donald Trump’s executive order promoting “religious liberty,” signed in May. Likewise there is a strong focus on the “unborn child,” which is being applauded by the National Right to Life Committee, the nation’s largest anti-abortion group.

Fenway Health Policy Research Director Sean Cahill fears that the draft’s plan to “affirmatively accommodate” religious beliefs “would certainly be a step backward” from the progress made by LGBT advocacy groups under Obama’s administration.

In addition, Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute, told POLITICO, “There’s a lot of good stuff in [the draft].” such as augmenting medical research and an emphasis on combating the opioid epidemic, but says he has doubts with the proposed “faith-based” liberties.

“It’s not that we’re against faith-based groups,” Schmid said. “We just want to make sure that these groups will not withhold condoms, withhold messages that are important to prevent HIV — particularly among gay men, among transgender people. That’s been the issue that we’ve seen in the past.”

Meghan Maury, policy director for the National LGBTQ Task Force says if HHS chooses to overlook LGBT people, it points to the fact that they are not concerned about their physical or mental health.

An HHS spokesman stressed to POLITICO that the document is a draft and the agency will accept public comments on it until Oct. 27.

Candidates to replace Price include Florida Gov. Rick Scott, former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Federal Drug Administration Director Scott Gottlieb, VA Secretary David Shulkin, and Seema Verma, administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Rick Scott and Bobby Jindal, considered to be top candidates, have a history of LGBT discrimination.

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