- Roger Severino was recently appointed as the new OCR Director. At the time of publication, OCR had not yet released a statement on the move.
Previously, Severino served as Director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society in the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation.
“Before joining Heritage in 2015, Mr. Severino was a trial attorney for seven years in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division where he enforced the Fair Housing Act, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and Title II and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” according to the OCR website.
“He has litigated cases under sex, race, national origin, religion, disability, and familial status discrimination and served as the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section's E-discovery officer as well as attorney advisor to the fair housing testing program.”
The appointment has been met with opposition from several civil rights agencies. For example, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released a statement saying that “strong and experienced leadership at OCR” is necessary to “to ensuring that all people can lead healthy lives, free of discriminatory barriers.”
However, Severino is not going to supply that leadership, President and CEO Wade Henderson explained.
“Since enactment of the ACA seven years ago today, members of The Leadership Conference have strongly advocated for the full and complete implementation of Section 1557,” Henderson said. “In his previous position at the Heritage Foundation, Mr. Severino repeatedly denounced and actively worked to oppose OCR’s implementation of Section 1557. These actions call into question his ability to fully enforce the ACA and protect communities of color and other underserved populations, who are most at risk for unequal access to health and health care.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also released a statement against Severino’s appointment.
HRC Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof said that she could not think of “a more dangerous person to head up the Office of Civil Rights at HHS.”
“Once again, Donald Trump is declaring war against our community by appointing anti-LGBTQ people at all levels of his administration,” Winterhof maintained. “Mr. Severino takes pride in being a stark opponent of the LGBTQ community and has made it clear that his number one priority is to vilify and degrade us. We will fight tooth and nail against any attempts to roll back civil rights including access to healthcare.”