Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services violated the law when it halted enforcement of existing anti-discrimination protections without providing the public any notice or an opportunity to comment. In November 2019, HHS proposed new rules to weaken the non-discrimination protections in a broad range of HHS-funded programs. Simultaneously, HHS announced that it would no longer enforce its current anti-discrimination protections that govern HHS grants. HHS violated the law by not providing the public any notice or an opportunity to comment on its refusal to uphold nondiscrimination rules; by relying on a mistaken legal analysis, and by failing to take into account the harms caused by nonenforcement.

This notice of non-enforcement invites federal grant recipients to deny services and discriminate against individuals —putting already at-risk communities, such as homeless LGBTQ youth, older adults, and foster children, in even greater danger of harm. Potential discrimination could include:

  • Federally funded foster care agencies refusing to place children with families because of a host family’s sexual orientation or gender identity, limiting the number of potential homes for kids who need them.
  • Child welfare agencies and homelessness service providers engaging in abusive and discriminatory practices, including verbal and physical abuse, conversion therapy, and forced services that invalidate one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Adult daycare providers denying services to transgender individuals.

“The Trump administration’s unlawful abandonment of anti-discrimination protections signals to federal grantees that they can freely discriminate without repercussion. Especially now, we are proud to stand alongside our partners to protect vulnerable people from the Trump administration’s decision to subsidize discrimination with taxpayer dollars.”

 – Anne Harkavy, Democracy Forward Executive Director

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread rapidly throughout the U.S., LGBTQ individuals of all ages are even more vulnerable to the Trump administration’s illegal action. Students, whose colleges and universities have shut down housing to prevent virus transmission, may be discriminated against when seeking shelter through HHS-funded homelessness programs. Older adults could be vulnerable to providers that subject them to harassment or refuse to offer services, such as home-delivered meals, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, at a time when senior centers are shutting down in major metropolitan centers to help combat spread.

Alongside Lambda Legal, we’re representing Family Equality, True Colors United, and SAGE in this challenge to HHS’ unlawful, harmful action which implicitly permits grantees to discriminate when providing critical services. The case was filed on Thursday, March 19, 2020, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Kristen Miller

Senior Counsel

Litigating challenges to unlawful actions involving civil rights, health care, consumer protections, and more.

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Robin Thurston

Deputy Legal Director

Litigating challenges to unlawful actions, abuses of power, and threats to democracy on behalf of those who are harmed.

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Ben Seel


Focusing on justice, national security, immigration, and health care issues.

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