BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today, December 20, announced she is co-leading a coalition of 19 attorneys general in opposing the Trump Administration’s latest effort to undermine the rights of LGBTQ individuals and families.
In a comment letter submitted Thursday and co-led by AG Healey, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the coalition opposes a new proposal by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would allow for discrimination in programs funded by HHS.
The new proposed rule undermines and calls into question legal protections that guarantee equal access for LGBTQ individuals to HHS grants including Head Start, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), maternal and child health grants, and mental health and substance abuse grants. It also puts LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents at risk of being excluded from federal funded child welfare programs.
“Foster and adoptive parents provide love and support to some of our most vulnerable children,” Healey said. “Not only will this proposed rule hurt LGBTQ people, but it could deprive children across the country of loving homes. We urge the Trump Administration to withdraw this cruel proposal.”
According to the letter, the proposed rule specifically eliminates explicit protections for “age, disability, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation” and replaces them with a generic prohibition of “discrimination: ‘to the extent doing so is prohibited by federal statute.’”
The proposal also removes explicit requirements that grantees treat the marriages of same-sex couples as valid, as consistent with Supreme Court precedent.
Joining AG Healey, AG Becerra and AG Shapiro in filing the comment letter are the attorneys general of Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
The coalition contends that the HHS proposal is arbitrary and capricious, and that the agency failed to provide any adequate explanation for the proposed rule.
The coalition also argues that HHS failed to consider the harm that this proposal will inflect on LGBTQ individuals and that the agency has previously recognized the “seriousness of continuing to discriminate” against the community.
Taking away these critical protections, the letter contends, will result in “increased healthcare disparities [for LGBTQ individuals], including higher rates of mental health issues, such ss depression and suicide attempts.”
The impacts will be particularly dire in the child welfare system. The proposal will create unnecessary barriers that impede qualified LGBTQ families from caring for vulnerable foster children.
Currently, there are an estimated 27,000 same sex couples raising 58,000 children through adoption and foster care across the country. In Massachusetts, in each of the last 10 years, between 15 and 20 percent of adoptions of foster children have involved same sex parents.
The proposal also puts LGBTQ youth in the foster care system at risk of not receiving the care and support services they need. In 2015, almost 20 percent of the youth in foster care identified as LGBTQ. The proposal, the coalition argues, is just the latest step by the Trump Administration to deny LGBTQ individuals, youth, and families access to critical care and services.