Lawmakers target Trump rule permitting religious, LGBTQ discrimination

Rep. Nydia Velazquez and more than 100 other members of Congress are demanding that the Trump administration withdraw a proposed...

Rep. Nydia Velazquez and more than 100 other members of Congress are demanding that the Trump administration withdraw a proposed new rule that would let religious groups discriminate against LGBTQ families.

The rule, which the administration says would remove barriers for religious and faith-based groups to get federal funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, would end protections put in place in 2016 by the Obama administration.

“This proposed rule single-handedly removes comprehensive protections from discrimination applied to all grants administered by HHS, thus permitting discrimination in federally funded adoption and foster care agencies, elder abuse programs, and many other HHS-funded health and human service programs that serve millions of Americans,” says the letter obtained by the Daily News.

The Obama rule stipulated that “no person otherwise eligible” would be blocked from programs based on “age, disability, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”

It had the effect of protecting LGBTQ people and others who are not explicitly protected under law from discrimination in the $500 billion worth of programs that HHS runs.

The Trump rule would strip that away, letting religious groups exclude gay people or others from programs to provide foster care, HIV prevention, health care and numerous other services.

The administration argues that the Obama rule bars religious groups from federal programs and says excluded faith-based organizations offer “unique expertise that is crucial to advancing HHS’s mission of protecting and enhancing the health and well-being of Americans.”

Velazquez, a New York Democrat, and lawmakers said that the administration offered no proof that barring discrimination does anything to stop anyone from helping Americans, and the alleged difficulty for religious groups was not justification to let them discriminate.

“Agencies getting government grants to serve the public shouldn’t get to pick and choose whom they will serve,” the letter says.

The lawmakers also pointed to more than 12,000 comments the agency got in 2017 when it asked religious groups about barriers to providing services. Just four of the comments complained that religious groups should be allowed to discriminate.

The Trump rule was inspired by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who sought an exemption from the Obama standards for a foster care program run by Miracle Hill Ministries in Greenville that requires people to sign a statement of faith asserting they are Protestant churchgoers. It recently agreed to allow Catholics, but still excludes Jews, gay people and others who can’t meet its purity pledge.

The group was granted the exemption.

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