HHS Issues Proposed Rule to Advance Non-discrimination in Health and Human Service Programs for LGBTQI+ Community

July 11, 2023

HHS Issues Proposed Rule to Advance Non-discrimination in Health and Human Service Programs for LGBTQI+ Community

The proposal reaffirms federal protections against discrimination in HHS grants and makes clear civil rights protections previously restricted.

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources (ASFR) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to affirm civil rights and equal opportunity for people nationwide in HHS funded programs and services. The proposed rule, Health and Human Services Grants Regulation (HHS Grants Rule), if finalized, would protect LGBTQI+ people from discrimination in important health and human services programs by clarifying and reaffirming the prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in certain statutes. This NPRM further builds on HHS’ efforts to ensure access to health and human services in furtherance of President Biden’s Executive Orders on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation and Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals.

“People should be able to access health and human services without bias, discrimination, or fear,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Today’s proposed rulemaking will help to ensure quality, accessible health and human services for LGBTQI+ Americans across the country delivering on our commitment to advance equality for LGBTQI+ Americans.”

“Today’s proposed rule is another important step in restoring the civil rights infrastructure at HHS, which is needed more than ever for our LGBTQI+ community,” said OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer. “When individuals seek care and services from HHS in our programs and activities, they should not have to fear being discriminated against because of who they are or who they love.”

The proposed HHS Grants Rule, if finalized, would clarify and reaffirm the prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in federal statutes administered by HHS, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020). The proposed rule would confirm non-discrimination protections in HHS programs, including Head Start, as well as services and grants that provide aid to refugees, assistance to people experiencing homelessness, substance abuse treatment and prevention, community mental health services, maternal and child health services, and community services. The proposed HHS Grants Rule also includes a provision that ensures that those with religious objections may seek an exemption from or modification of program requirements, as appropriate. HHS encourages all stakeholders, including individuals and their families, health insurance issuers, health care providers, health care professional associations, consumer advocates, and state and local government entities, to submit comments through regulations.gov.

Public comments on the NPRM are due 60 days after publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register. The NPRM may be viewed or downloaded at: https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/2023-14600/health-and-human-services-grants-regulation

The proposed HHS Grants Rule is yet another step by HHS in working to improve access to care and social services for the LGBTQI+ community.

If you believe that you or someone else has been discriminated against because of your race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, or religion in programs or activities that HHS directly operates or to which HHS provides federal financial assistance, you may file a complaint with the HHS Office for Civil Rights at: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/filing-a-complaint/index.html.

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