The Trump administration has appointed Roger Severino, a former staffer at conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, to head the HHS' Office for Civil Rights.
The appointment has been publicly opposed by several LGBTQ groups and women's rights organizations because of Severino's views on transgender discrimination protections and abortion.
At the Heritage Foundation, Severino was director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society. In that role, he authored a report last January fiercely opposing discrimination protection mandates part of the Affordable Care Act. He said regulations by the Office for Civil Rights' that offered greater protections to transgender patients infringe on rights of healthcare professionals.
Further, Severino argued in the same report that sex discrimination doesn't apply to gender identity or sexual orientation. “Because decisions about medical procedures, treatments and insurance coverage made in line with reasonable medical, moral and religious beliefs about biology and the best interests of the patient are nothing like invidious sex discrimination, they should not be treated by the federal government as such,” he wrote.
Severino's views fly in the face of a final rule under the Obama administration last May that bans discrimination against transgender people throughout the healthcare system.
Severino also wrote an op-ed in September 2016 that opposed federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a hot-button issue for the GOP. He called for the allocation of those federal dollars to be redirected to health centers that don't provide abortion services.
Groups that have opposed Severinos' appointment include the nonpartisan think tank Center for American Progress, the National Women's Law Center and the National LGBTQ Task Force.
“By appointing Severino to enforce the life-saving protections that he has made his personal mission to dismantle, the Trump administration has once again put the fox in charge of the hen house,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs of Human Rights Campaign, said, “I could not think of a more dangerous person to head the Office for Civil Rights at the HHS.”
Before joining the Heritage Foundation in 2015, Severino was a trial attorney for seven years in the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division where he enforced the Fair Housing Act, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the HHS.