Senators say HHS decision to rollback essential nondiscrimination protections runs counter to HHS mission to ‘enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans’
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, led every member of the Senate Democratic caucus to demand that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rescind its proposed rule that would allow recipients of HHS grants and contracts to discriminate on the basis of religion. In a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the senators also expressed concern with the agency’s decision to bypass the rulemaking process and immediately permit this discrimination.
“This is yet another step in the Trump Administration’s efforts to erode civil rights protections and leave millions of people across the country again subject to discrimination,” the senators wrote. “Taken together, these actions leave vulnerable populations unable to access the services they need. We strongly urge the Department to enforce existing federal nondiscrimination regulations that protect against discrimination based on sex and religion and rescind this proposed rule.”
HHS annually awards more than $500 billion in taxpayer-funded grants and contracts to support a wide range of critical programs and services including for public health, early childhood education, youth homelessness, the elderly, federally funded adoption and foster care, and much more. By no longer enforcing existing nondiscrimination regulations, HHS is allowing funding recipients to cite their religious faith as justification for choosing not to serve certain people—potentially leaving people of various religious affiliations and LGBTQIA+ people without the services necessary to support their health and well-being.
Additionally, on December 12, Senator Murray, along with House Committee on Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (VA-03) and House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), sent a letter to Secretary Azar requesting the Department rescind the notice of non-enforcement and extend the comment period, allowing the impacted communities to make their voices heard about the devastating consequences of the rule. A copy of that letter is available here.
Read the full text of the letter here.