Maybe going forward, don’t ask if there’s a doctor in the house.
Tom Price, a tea-party conservative and congressman from Georgia, worked as an orthopedic surgeon prior to his political career. Now, as of 2 AM on Friday morning, he is also the secretary of health and human services, and he promises to undo much of the LGBT progress enacted under Barack Obama.
As the head of the $1 trillion agency, Price leads the effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Healthcare is an LGBT Issue
Although not an explicitly discriminatory agenda, by rolling back the protections and benefits of the ACA, the move threatens the lives and well-being of members of the LGBT community.
The Affordable Care Act provides new protections for LGBT Americans within the healthcare system. For example, it requires that hospitals allow visitation rights to same-sex couples; it prohibits insurers from discriminating against same-sex couples when issuing plans; and it provides funds towards the research and eradication of HIV/AIDS.
As Time sums it up: “The vast department, if it decided to, could make life incredibly difficult for LGBT Americans.”
Historically, the LGBT community has suffered disproportionately from a discriminatory healthcare system. Sexual and gender minorities suffer from certain chronic illnesses at a higher rate than heterosexual or cisgendered Americans, in addition to higher rates of HIV/AIDS, mental illness, substance abuse, and sexual and physical violence.
This is all to say that healthcare is an LGBT issue.
A Dangerous History
Secretary Tom Price has a concerning history of opposing LGBT rights and advocating for discriminatory measures. He has made statements that indicate a disregard for LGBT people and their unique struggles.
Price, whose nomination was dogged with ethics concerns, voted against hate crime protections for LGBT people, he voted against the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would have banned workplace discrimination against sexual and gender minorities.
He even voted for a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage that would have prohibited individual states from deciding the issue on their own – this, despite his strong support for state’s rights.
But after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, he returned to his anti-Federalist roots. He co-sponsored the State Marriage Defense Act with Attorney General and brother of a Southern cartoon rooster Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, which would have allowed each state to define marriage for itself.
More recently, again with best bud Jeff Sessions, Price cosponsored the First Amendment Defense Act, which would legalize discrimination of LGBT people on the basis of religious freedom. Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee plan to reintroduce the bill, and president Donald Trump has promised to sign the bill into law.
His statements over the years also reflect an ideological blindness to LGBT issues.
When the Supreme Court legalized marriage between same-sex couples, Price ranted, “This is not only a sad day for marriage, but a further judicial destruction of our entire system of checks and balances.”
In a 2013 conversation with the rabbi who blamed Hurricane Sandy on marriage equality, Price warned against the consequences of legalizing “activity that has been seen outside the norm.”
Using language that would echo forward to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Price added, “the tried and true traditions in history that made us great are preserved and have survived because they are effective.”