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State Department publicly acknowledges Intersex Awareness Day

Special LGBTQ rights envoy moderated activist roundtable

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State Department (public domain photo)

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Tuesday acknowledged the annual Intersex Awareness Day.

“We proudly recognize the voices and human rights of intersex people around the world,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement. “The Department of State is committed to promoting and protecting the rights, dignity, and equality of all individuals, including intersex persons.”

Price in his statement said U.S. foreign policy seeks to “pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics, while acknowledging the intersections with disability, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or other status.” Price also acknowledged intersex people “are subject to violence, discrimination, and abuse on the basis of their sex characteristics” and “many intersex persons, including children, experience invasive, unnecessary, and sometimes irreversible medical procedures.” 

“The department supports the empowerment of movements and organizations advancing the human rights of intersex persons and the inclusion of intersex persons in the development of policies that impact their enjoyment of human rights,” he said.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad, on Tuesday moderated a virtual panel with intersex activists from around the world.

Intersex Awareness Day commemorates the world’s first-ever intersex protest that took place in Boston on Oct. 26, 1996.

Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with their sex listed as “X.” The State Department in June announced it would begin to issue gender-neutral passports and documents for American citizens who were born overseas.

The U.S. and more than 50 other countries earlier this month signed a statement that urges the U.N. Human Rights Council to protect the rights of intersex people.

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Federal Government

CMS, HHS pledge ‘prevent anti-Trans policies taking effect’ in Florida

“Attempts to restrict, challenge, or falsely characterize this potentially lifesaving care as abuse is dangerous”

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Screenshot/YouTube Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Administrator, U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

WASHINGTON – After Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) signaled its plans to stop Medicaid reimbursements for transgender related healthcare last week, U.S. federal health officials expressed concerns with the move in an exclusive statement to The Los Angeles Blade. 

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) pledged they would “continue to do everything within our authority to protect Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to care and prevent discriminatory policies from taking effect.”

Pursuant to AHCA’s announcement of the new rules, coverage exemptions would be carved out of the state’s Medicaid plans for health treatments like puberty blockers, hormone therapies, or surgical procedures for gender dysphoria. 

Florida will join other conservative states that have moved in recent years to prohibit or restrict access to transgender healthcare, particularly for young people. In May, the Texas Supreme Court ruled the state could weaponize its Child Protective Services to investigate parents for child abuse for giving their transgender children medically approved health treatments. 

In March, the HHS’s OCR issued a Notice and Guidance on Gender Affirming Care, Civil Rights, and Patient Privacy, writing: “Attempts to restrict, challenge, or falsely characterize this potentially lifesaving care as abuse is dangerous. Such attempts block parents from making critical health care decisions for their children, create a chilling effect on health care providers who are necessary to provide care for these youth, and ultimately negatively impact the health and well-being of transgender and gender nonconforming youth.

In May, OCR announced Title IX’s rules prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex includes sexual orientation and gender identity, with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra writing, ““Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences. It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone – including LGBTQ people – should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”

Shortly after the news in Florida broke on Thursday, the LGBTQ+ legal advocacy organization Lambda Legal told The Blade, “We are exploring all possible avenues for challenging this discriminatory rulemaking.” 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and its Florida Chapter (FCAAP) also shared a statement with The Blade condemning the state’s “interference with the physician-patient relationship and its prohibition of this vital care.”

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Federal Government

Biden administration ends ‘Remain In Mexico’ policy for asylum seekers

DHS had held off lifting the MPP protocols until after the Supreme Court’s ruling and then until the U.S. District Judge lifted his injunction

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Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas meeting with Honduran Security Minister Sabillon, July 27, 2022 (Photo Credit: U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Monday that the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) colloquially referred to as the ‘Remain-in-Mexico’ policy for asylum seekers at the nation’s Southern border has ended.

In a statement issued yesterday, DHS noted;

“We welcome the U.S. District Court’s decision, which follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 30th decision, to lift the injunction that required DHS to reimplement the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in good faith.

DHS is committed to ending the court-ordered implementation of MPP in a quick, and orderly, manner. Individuals are no longer being newly enrolled into MPP, and individuals currently in MPP in Mexico will be disenrolled when they return for their next scheduled court date.  Individuals disenrolled from MPP will continue their removal proceedings in the United States.”

DHS officials had held off lifting the MPP protocols until after the Supreme Court’s ruling and then additionally until U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee in Amarillo, Texas, had lifted his injunction. 

“MPP has endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said as DHS removed the MPP policy.

The DHS statement also noted that the Department will provide additional information in the coming days. “MPP enrollees should follow the directions on their court documents and tear sheets to appear for their scheduled court date as required.”

DHS continues to enforce our nation’s immigration and public health laws, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order as required by court order. Individuals encountered at the Southwest Border who cannot establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed or expelled, the statement added.

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Federal Government

HHS broadens definitions for women & LGBTQ+ in healthcare protections

Proposed rule would ensure communities who have had barriers to accessing health care would be able to obtain it

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

WASHINGTON – A new regulation proposed by the Biden administration seeks to ensure non-discrimination in health care settings for women who have had abortions and LGBTQ people at a time when monkeypox cases continue to increase and fears persist after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The new regulation, announced Monday by the Department of Health & Human Services, would interpret Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act to apply more broadly to the definition of sex after the court’s earlier 2016 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which determined anti-LGBTQ discrimination was an illegal form of sex discrimination. The rule would enhance the prohibition discrimination on the basis of sex in health care setting and federally funded health care programs consistent with the law.

The regulation also institutes non-discrimination protections for intersex traits; and pregnancy or related conditions, including pregnancy termination; and people with limited English proficiency.

Xavier Becerra, secretary of health and human services, announced the proposed rule on Monday during a conference call with reporters and said it would ensure communities who have had barriers to accessing health care would be able to obtain it.

“Everyone in America should be able to get the care that they need from any health provider in the country, especially if they’re that provider is receiving funding from HHS,” Becerra said. “We want to make sure that Americans are free from discrimination when they try to access the care that they need. Pretty simple proposition.”

Becerra, asked by the Washington Blade how he sees the proposed rule playing out as part of the Biden administration’s approach to the monkeypox among gay and bisexual men, said the rule makes clear discrimination in health care is unacceptable and enables LGBTQ people to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health & Human Services,.

“The reality is that today, the issue of monkeypox, you should not face any discrimination when it comes to the issue of accessing the health care services you might need to address monkeypox,” Becerra said.

The new regulation doesn’t appear to be timed as a means to address monkeypox, but a follow-up to earlier commitment from the Biden administration to make the change.

The proposed rule is similar to a regulation in the final years of the Obama administration, which interpreted the language of Section 1557 to bar discrimination based on sex stereotypes and gender identity. The rule, however, was rescinded during the Trump administration under HHS Director of the Office of Civil Rights Roger Severino, who bucked the decision in Bostock and reversed the rule pursuant an earlier lower federal court ruling in Texas.

Melanie Fontes Rainer. now the director of the Office of Civil Rights under the Biden administration, said in the call restoring non-discrimination protections after they were rescinded makes health care more accessible for everyone.

“The 2020 version of this rule narrowed its scope to cover fewer health programs and activities, limiting vital non-discrimination protections for so many across the country,” Rainer said. “The proposed rule proposes revisions to Section 1557 implementing regulation by restoring and strengthening provisions that protect individuals from discrimination and health programs and activities”

The Biden administration rule, however, is different from the Obama-era rule in key aspects. For starters, the Biden-era rule explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in addition to other sex-based categories that were articulated before, using the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock as justification.

The newer regulation also contains language interprets Medicare Part B as federally funded assistance and includes an explicit exemption for health care providers who have objections to certain procedures, such as abortion and gender reassignment surgery. The exact breadth of the religious exemption wasn’t immediately clear.

Becerra said during the call the religious conscience provision was included as a result of stakeholder feedback and consistent with the Biden administration’s goal to protecting the rights of people in health care settings.

“That is also part of the work that we do, and we don’t believe that there’s any inconsistency and making sure that people are accessing care without discrimination,” Becerra said.

Becerra, asked during the call about the timeline for the rule, said he expects it will be made final before the end of this year and the formal 90-day comment period.

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