Roger Severino quietly tapped to lead OCR, spurring outrage from LGBT groups

The former director of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank is a staunch opponent of civil rights for transgender people, whom he'll be tasked to protect as OCR director.
By Jessica Davis
11:42 AM
Roger Severino OCR LGBT

Roger Severino speaking during an interview as a staff member from the Heritage Foundation in 2015.

President Donald Trump this week quietly appointed Roger Severino to direct the Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights.

Severino most recently served as director of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. There he focused on "religious liberty, marriage and life issues" at the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society.

Prior to his work at The Heritage Foundation, Severino was a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice. He also served as legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Severino received his Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School.

While with the Department of Justice, Severino worked for Housing and Civil Enforcement Section. He led multiple district and appellate court cases, which include the Fair Housing Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Severino has been vocal in his opinions about the civil rights of transgender people. He authored several reports speaking out against LGBT rights, including a 2016 report that criticized a proposed Obama administration rule to prevent discrimination against transgender patients within the healthcare system.

He's also authored multiple blog posts for the Daily Signal, where he consistently spoke out against White House provisions that protected LGBT groups from discrimination.

Multiple human rights organizations have decried Severino's appointment, including the Civil and Human Rights Coalition.

"OCR is essential to ensuring that all people can lead healthy lives, free of discriminatory barriers," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in a statement. "Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bans discrimination based on race, sex, disability and age in health programs and activities, is key to achieving this goal.

"Strong and experienced leadership at OCR committed to fully enforcing Section 1557 is therefore critical, he continued. "Severino is not that leader."

While OCR hasn't released an official statement, The Heritage Foundation site stated Severino is "no longer a staff member" and Severino's LinkedIn account was updated to note the OCR position. Inquiries to OCR weren't returned by time of publication.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
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