Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert, Esq.

(Washington D.C., April 1, 2011)—Today, as part of LGBTQ Health Awareness Week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced significant efforts it has taken, and several others in development, to improve the health and well-being of the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. HHS’ announcement responds to President Obama’s April 2010 memorandum requesting that HHS protect LGBTQ patients’ hospital visitation rights, and directing HHS to find other ways to improve health care programs for LGBTQ patients and their families.

The key parts of HHS’ efforts include the implementation of non-discrimination policies on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in HHS employment and programs; targeting LGBTQ organizations for specific outreach and making them aware of funding opportunities that are beneficial to the LGBTQ community; encouraging health profession training programs to include LGBTQ cultural competency curricula; and continuing to increase federally-funded health and demographic surveys that collect and report sexual orientation and gender identity data. HHS will also provide guidance to healthcare providers in the next few months regarding advanced directives for LGBTQ patients who want to designate persons to make medical decisions on their behalf.

A Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Attorney Maya Rupert:

“We applaud the Obama Administration and Secretary Sebelius for the significant steps announced today. People and their families are at their most vulnerable when they need to access health care services and programs. HHS made clear today that it will not allow federally-supported health programs to compound that vulnerability by denying access to services and programs because of sexual orientation and gender identity. The government’s efforts today and over the last year illustrate the administration’s genuine commitment to our community’s health and well-being. We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to provide equal access to health services to all patients and their families.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.