Lambda Legal, along with other health advocacy and medical care groups, urges the Department of Health and Human Services to withdraw or significantly revise proposed federal regulations that could increase discrimination against LGBT and HIV-positive patients.
Lambda Legal and the National Coalition for LGBT Health, along with other health advocacy and medical care groups, submitted comments to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding proposed expansions to federal rules that could seem to invite increased discrimination against LGBT and HIV-positive patients.
The proposed regulations, which HHS claims are intended to clarify religious nondiscrimination protections for Department employees and those of organizations receiving department funds are far too broad and vague, and may lead grantees to violate other federal or state laws. That scenario, the groups say, is great cause for concern.
Anti-LGBT bias remains a problem among health care providers and, unfortunately, religious disapproval of gay people frequently contributes to that. Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court ruled that religion cannot be used as a legal excuse for doctors to deny an Oceanside lesbian infertility treatment, enforcing her right to be treated equally with other patients who face the same health-care needs. In its unanimous decision, the court made clear that California’s law prohibiting this discrimination must be followed, rejecting the doctors’ claim that they were exempt from the state’s civil rights law because of their fundamentalist Christian beliefs.
The proposed HHS regulations could cause confusion in everything ranging from who receives care to which organizations can receive federal funding, and could result in federally funded programs and health care providers inappropriately refusing to treat LGBT and HIV-positive patients in a medically sound, respectful manner.
“Patients with HIV already often face the added stigma of homophobia,” says Bebe Anderson, director of Lambda Legal’s HIV Project. “These proposed rules address too many separate issues to do anything but create massive confusion. For people with HIV, who could be left open to religiously-based discrimination or harassment, that’s a dangerous prescription.”