|Roger Severino was behind the creation of the Trump Administration's anti-LGBTQ 'conscience' rule. Now that two courts have struck it down, he needs to be asked who faked the justification for the rule?|
For the second consecutive day, a court has ruled against the Trump Administration's anti-LGBTQ healthcare 'conscience ' rule.
From The Hill:
A federal judge in Washington State on Thursday struck down a Trump administration rule intended to allow health providers to refuse to provide care based on moral or religious reasons. The latest ruling marks the second time in as many days that a judge has ruled against the administration's policy, and “provides an extra layer of protection against appeal” by the Trump administration, said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Washington was one of a number of states, cities and advocacy groups — including New York, California, San Francisco, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood — that had sued over the rule, which was scheduled to go into effect Nov. 22.
Yesterday in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer struck down the rule. In his comments, Engelmayer made a point which needs emphasis - The Trump Administration was not being truthful in justifying the need for the rule.
According to Modern Healthcare:
In August, Roger Severino, director of HHS' Office for Civil Rights, said the administration has received "hundreds" of conscience complaints per year, far more than in the past, because his office is getting the word out and enforcing the law more vigorously. But under Engelmayer's questioning during oral arguments last month, an HHS attorney conceded that there only had been about 20 complaints. In his opinion Wednesday, the judge wrote that HHS' stated justification for the rule—a significant increase in complaints relating to the conscience clause—was "factually untrue."
National Public Radio (NPR) also points out that Severino claimed that an increase in the number of "conscience complaints justified the need for the rule:
Severino frequently pointed to a jump in those complaints to 343 last year as proving the need for this rule. He attributed that increase to a strong message from his office that they were "open for business" when it came to issues of religious freedom.
NPR also went on to say:
. . . that increase in the number of complaints is "demonstrably false," according to Engelmayer's ruling. Nearly 80% of all the complaints given to the court were about vaccinations — unrelated to health care workers and their religious beliefs in providing care. The judge writes that only 21 — or 6% — of the complaints that the government provided the court are even potentially related to providers' moral or religious objections. During oral arguments, the government's attorney conceded that the real number of complaints was "in that ballpark." "This conceded fact is fatal to HHS's stated justification for the Rule," Engelmayer writes. "Even assuming that all 20 or 21 complaints implicated the Conscience Provisions, those 20 or 21 are a far cry from the 343 that the Rule declared represented a 'significant increase' in complaints."
It sounds like the Trump Administration planned this rule first and then manufactured a justification for it. That idea isn't farfetched. Donald Trump is very popular among conservative evangelicals and conservative groups due to the fact that he has made decisions favorable to them and given them almost unfettered access to the White House and his Administration's policies. This includes hiring quite a number of their former employees, including Severino.
When he was picked in 2017 to work in the Trump Administration, Severino generated a lot of controversy. Many LGBTQ groups and activists cried foul because he formerly worked for the far-right Heritage Foundation and has a long history of opposing LGBTQ equality:
According to Bustle:
. . . a report on Obamacare's gender identity mandate Severino co-authored in 2016 for the Heritage Foundation argues that rules prohibiting the "differential treatment" of transgender people in health services would "penalize medical professionals and health care organizations that, as a matter of faith, moral conviction, or professional medical judgment, believe that maleness and femaleness are biological realities to be respected and affirmed, not altered or treated as diseases."
That same year, Severino also wrote an opinion piece for The Daily Signal in which he hailed North Carolina's controversial transgender bathroom bill as "commonsense" policy and criticized HHS' proposal to broaden discrimination on the basis of sex to include discrimination that results from so-called gender stereotypes, or the idea that gender is comprised only of male and female. "The radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom," Severino wrote.
Severino's criticism of pro-LGBTQ legislation doesn't end there. In 2007, he argued that legalizing same‐sex marriage would come at a cost to religious liberty in an article for the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, entitled "Or for Poorer? How Same-Sex Marriage Threatens Religious Liberty."
In an interview with The Atlantic, Severino described the rule as a "priority for his office." Now that the courts has pointed out that the Trump Administration distorted and lied to create a justification for the rule, we need answers. And all questions should be addressed to Severino.