Senate Makes History by Confirming Dr. Rachel Levine

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For the first time in history, the U.S. Senate confirmed an openly trans person as a federal official.

Dr. Rachel Levine was confirmed as Assistant Health Secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, in a 52-48 vote. Previously she served as Pennsylvania’s secretary of health and led the state’s COVID-19 response.

Under the Trump Administration, trans people faced removal from protections under the law, in areas including health care, housing and sex discrimination, as well as a loss of protections for trans students, and a ban on serving in the military (lifted by the Biden Administration in January).

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) urged colleagues to support Levine’s nomination, calling her a “trusted voice” on matters regarding opioids to LGBTQ health care.

“I’ve always said the people in our government should reflect the people it serves, and today we will take a new historic step towards making that a reality,” said Murray. “I’m proud to vote for Dr. Levine and incredibly proud of the progress this confirmation will represent, for our country and for transgender people all across it who are watching today.”

In Levine’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) demanded to know if Levine believes minors are capable of making “such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex,” comparing sex reassignment procedures to “genital mutilation.”

Levine said that, “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed and, if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the assistant secretary of health, I will look forward to working with you and your office and … discussing the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine.”

The Los Angeles LGBT Center issued a statement regarding the confirmation, stating that the “Center congratulates Dr. Rachel Levine on this monumental occasion of becoming the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. At a time when anti-transgender legislation is sweeping across state houses nationwide—just last week far right zealots attacked the rights of transgender members of our community to exist—today’s confirmation sends a powerful message that our community will not be deterred from seeking to represent us in the highest positions across this country.”

“The Center looks forward to working with Dr. Levine in her new role as Assistant Secretary of Health, and we are optimistic she can help bring desperately needed attention to the health needs of the transgender and broader LGBTQ community.”

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