After Thwarted Kidnapping Plans, Whitmer Calls for Unity

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]

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Obama nominates Kansas Governor for high-ranking health position, denounces conscience clause

By |2018-01-16T04:18:47-05:00March 5th, 2009|News|

By Lisa Keen

On March 2, President Obama announced his selection of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his new nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, a move that is seen as a positive development by gay and HIV groups. Meanwhile, community groups also applauded what they hope will eventually be the first step by the administration toward repealing a regulation that allows health care providers to deny service to gays and others based on the provider’s personal or religious conscientious objections.
Nominee Sebelius is generally seen as supportive of equal rights for gays. She opposed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Kansas, saying it was not needed (there was an existing state law already banning gay marriage) and that it went “far beyond the bounds of that law.” The constitutional amendment passed with 69 percent of the vote in 2005.
Sebelius was a guest speaker at the Stonewall Democrats annual meeting in Denver last August, just prior to the Democratic National Convention. She told the gay Democrats that she had tried to stop the constitutional ban in Kansas “because it was the wrong direction and the wrong message.”
John Marble, a spokesperson for Stonewall Democrats, said Sebelius “has long been a friend of Stonewall Democrats.’
“The amazing thing about Gov. Sebelius,” he said, “is her ability to communicate the benefits of Democratic values in even the most conservative areas. That skill is going to be a crucial asset as we move forward with expanding access to health care and restoring science-based approaches to public health.”
Marble said that Sebelius, as governor of Kansas, worked with Stonewall Democrats “to build a more inclusive and successful state party.”
“We were proud to stand with Governor Sebelius as she lobbied against anti-equality legislation, signed an executive order barring discrimination in state government on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and worked to increase the Democratic Party’s reach among all Kansans. She is an excellent choice.”
Sebelius has been governor of Kansas since 2003. Political observers say she will likely catch some flack during confirmation over her support for the right of a woman to obtain an abortion.
Her nomination replaces that of former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who withdrew his nomination last month after acknowledging that he had failed to pay taxes on a portion of his recent income as a consultant.


Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign is applauding a move by the Obama administration concerning a new HHS regulation that is seen as a weapon that could be used against LGBT patients. The regulations, developed late in President George W. Bush’s last year in office, enable a health care provider to refuse to perform any medical procedure based on some conscientious objection.
“These regulations could impair LGBT patients’ access to services if interpreted to permit providers to choose patients based on sexual orientation, gender identity or family structure,” noted an HRC press release.
For instance, the rule could permit a doctor from providing medical insemination for lesbian couples or permit a researcher to refuse to participate in HIV research.
The HHS’s “Provider Conscience Regulation” states that its purpose is to ensure that HHS funds “do not support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or policies” against health professionals. It provides that institutions receiving federal funds “shall not require any individual to perform or assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity funded by the Department if such service or activity would be contrary to his religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
That, says the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s blog The Wonk Room, is an opportunity for discrimination that “you could drive a truck through.” The objections, says the Center, “can be based not only on religious beliefs but on any personal moral convictions.”
The Associated Press reported Monday that an HHS official said the administration would publish a proposal concerning that regulation next week, giving interested parties 30 days to comment.
Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said this week that President Obama has “a very clear record of supporting well-crafted conscience clause legislation.”
“He believes this issue requires a careful balance between the rights of providers and the health of women and their families, a balance that the last-minute Bush rule appears to upset,” said Inouye. He said the administration would issue a notice that it plans to change the rule and give the public the required 30 days “to weigh in on the Bush rule” and other regulations governing the right of health care workers to refuse perform or assist in certain procedures.
The current rule applies only in those medical institutions which receive federal funds but, as noted by MSNBC political commentator Rachel Maddow last month, that includes more than a half-million institutions, including hospitals, doctors’ offices and pharmacies.

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.