Levine’s confirmation as US Assistant Secretary of Health is hailed by LGBTQ rights groups as a “historic” victory.
The United States Senate has confirmed Rachel Levine as Assistant Secretary of Health, making her the first openly transgender federal public servant to obtain Senate confirmation.
The 52-48 vote on Wednesday was cast along party lines with two Republicans joining Democrats in backing Levine, who was previously the top health official in the state of Pennsylvania.
Human rights activists hailed Levine’s appointment as a historic breakthrough.
“History is made,” tweeted the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ civil rights organization. “Trans people are leaders, innovators and agents of change – and we deserve a place at every table.”
Levine will be a senior official in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a key department in the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic.
She “will provide the consistent leadership and essential expertise we need to help people navigate this pandemic – regardless of zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability”, US President Joe Biden said upon his appointment in January.
History is made: Dr. Rachel Levine has just been confirmed as the next Assistant Secretary of Health, becoming the very first openly transgender federal public servant confirmed by the Senate.
Trans people are leaders, innovators and agents of change – and we deserve a place at every table. pic.twitter.com/bNotSqaWDu
– Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) March 24, 2021
Levine’s confirmation comes at a difficult time for transgender people in the United States, as Republican-controlled state legislatures consider a wave of bills targeting transgender youth.
One type of bill, introduced in at least 25 states, seeks to ban transgender girls and young women from participating in female school sports, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Other proposals would ban or restrict certain types of medical care for transgender youth.
U.S. House of Representatives Passed legislation enshrining LGBTQ protections in national labor and civil rights laws on Feb. 25, but he faces grim prospects in the US Senate.
During his confirmation hearing, Republican Senator Rand Paul confronted Levine about hormone therapy and puberty blockers for transgender children.
“Do you think minors are capable of making such an important decision as changing their gender?” Paul asked.
Levine responded that transgender medicine “is a very complex and nuanced field with solid research and standards of care.”
In the past, she has said that hormone therapy and puberty-blocking drugs can save some transgender youth from mental distress and possible suicide.
I look forward to the opportunity to continue serving Pennsylvanians, and all Americans, under the Biden administration if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed in this position. Read my full statement: https://t.co/KZNUgnh44x
– Dr. Rachel Levine (@SecretaryLevine) January 19, 2021
In a statement in January, Levine said she was proud of the work she has done to address health equity, respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and “raise awareness of LGBTQ equity issues.”
“I look forward to the opportunity to continue serving Pennsylvanians, and all Americans, under the Biden administration if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed in this position,” she said. at this moment.
Levine is a graduate of Harvard and Tulane Medical School and president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She has written on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBTQ medicine.