Human Eventsby Connie Hair
At the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing last Thursday, Democrats passed a bill to require federal health officials to question anyone seeking services from Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) community health centers or other programs about their sexual orientation and â€œgender identity.â€
Introduced by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), H.R. 6109 requires HHS to obtain, retain and analyze sexual identity information from patients who seek healthcare, including children.
â€œThis bill is about collecting data, no more, no less,â€ Baldwin said.
According to Baldwin, the current â€œlack of cultural competencyâ€ among federal officials means that â€œwe are left with gaping holes in our knowledge on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) policyâ€ resulting in â€œsignificant health disparities.â€
Baldwin is the first openly-declared lesbian elected to Congress.
The new billâ€™s requirements would apply to all HHS health service programs, requiring the health service employees to ask everyone receiving services their sexual orientation and gender identity -- including those that focus on children at school-based health centers. Children who seek help at government-funded school health clinics would be asked whether or not they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or if they know their gender identity.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), top Republican on the committee, said the legislation was grossly intrusive.
â€œFor the life of me I do not see any reason at all to do this bill,â€ Barton said. â€œIt would require any individual who seeks services from any program offered by HHS to answer questions about their sexual orientation and gender identity. While I assume most adults understand and know what that is, it is inconceivable that a child in a program would even know what some of the terms mean.â€
Of course, Democrats voted the bill out of committee with 12 Democrats voting yes and 10 Republicans voting no. Democrats were light on the vote due to absences from several members, including Rep. Zach Space (D-Ohio) who hastily exited the hearing room when the bill was called up for consideration.
Why not just vote "no" on the bill, Mr. Space?