June 12,2020

Wyden, Murray Demand HHS Withdraw Rule Allowing Sweeping Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination Against LGBTQIA+ Communities and Religious Minorities

Senators say rule would also make it more difficult for vulnerable populations to access services needed to remain safe and healthy during the COVID-19 public health emergency

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Wash., today condemned the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for going forward with the finalization of a proposed rule that would allow recipients of HHS grants and contracts to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ communities and religious minorities across the country. 

In a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the senators also expressed concern the rule would make it even more difficult for vulnerable populations to benefit from the programs and receive the services they need to remain safe and healthy during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

"At a time when protecting communities from the COVID-19 pandemic is paramount, your Department and the Trump Administration are knowingly putting the health and wellbeing of vulnerable individuals and children at risk, while blatantly promoting discrimination against LGBTQIA+ communities and religious minorities by pursuing the finalization of this proposed rule," Wyden and Murray wrote. "Congress has repeatedly acted to expand and protect the rights of vulnerable Americans to fair and equal services, and we call on the Trump Administration to do the same. Now is the time, more than ever, to be coming together as a country to support vulnerable individuals and families in an equitable way. In order to do that, you must start with enforcing existing nondiscrimination protections and withdraw this proposed rule that could exacerbate disparities in our country."

HHS administers over $500 billion in taxpayer-funded grants and contracts annually. These grants and contracts provide essential health and social services to the public including for public health, older adults, people with disabilities, early childhood education, youth homelessness, federally funded foster care and adoption and much more. The new rule would allow service providers, including faith-based agencies, to access taxpayer-funded grants, including grant programs established through the recently appropriated COVID-19 funding, while openly discriminating against those who do not align with the grantee’s personal beliefs, potentially denying services to eligible LGBTQIA+ individuals and those from different faith communities.

Read the full text of the letter here.