Senate Dems blast Severino as bigoted, unqualified to lead OCR

Echoing sentiments from LGBT groups made when the OCR director was hired in March, a group of Democratic Senators is denouncing the appointment.
By Jessica Davis
02:39 PM

A group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Patty Murray D-Washington sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, condemning the appointment of Roger Severino to lead the HHS Office of Civil Rights. The letter was first obtained by the Washington Blade.

The letter references multiple “bigoted statements” Severino made against LGBT people and calls on HHS to answer questions about the Democratic group’s “deep concerns.”

The OCR is designed to protect all people and enforce civil rights laws, including a section of the Affordable Care Act that contains non-discrimination protections. 

[Also: Roger Severino quietly tapped to lead OCR, spurring outrage from LGBT groups]

But Severino has spent the bulk of his career speaking out against the people he’s now charged to protect -- a cause the group said makes him ‘unqualified’ for the position.

Price named Severino as director in late March -- and LGBT groups blasted the announcement for similar reasons.

Before joining HHS, Severino was Director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. He also wrote for the conservative publication, The Daily Signal.

During this time, Severino consistently spoke out against the Obama administration and its efforts to protect LGBT people. He also accused the Supreme Court of putting abortion profits over women’s safety, when it ruled that Texas was making it difficult for women in the state to obtain an abortion.

“Mr. Severino has a long history of making bigoted statements toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and attacking women’s access to healthcare services and reproductive rights,” the senators wrote. “His offensive statements raise serious questions about his ability to oversee the Office of Civil Rights.”

The senators are asking Price to address how HHS will promote a diverse and inclusive workforce and explain the vetting process of candidates. And more pressing: They want to know if any HHS employee who has worked against the ACA’s nondiscrimination protections will be asked to recuse him- or herself from decisions that relate to enforcing those protections.

In addition to Murray, the group consists of Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut; Cory Booker, D-New Jersey; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts; Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont; Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island; Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; and Tim Kaine, D-Virginia.

Twitter: @JessiefDavis

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