EPPC Scholars and Others Oppose the HHS’s Grants Proposed Rule  

September 12, 2023

Yesterday, EPPC scholars Eric Kniffin and Natalie Dodson submitted a public comment opposing a proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would rewrite sex discrimination provisions in more than a dozen laws that undergird federal grant programs. HHS proposes applying these provisions as if they also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  

The proposed rule also offers inadequate protections for religious liberty. The social services programs these statutes created depend in substantial part on religious organizations, many of whom cannot comply with HHS’s reinterpreted grant terms without violating their religious convictions. Yet the proposed rule offers no religious exemptions or accommodations: HHS only offers that grant recipients may voice their concerns, and HHS will consider them “promptly.”  

As the EPPC scholars explain in their comment: 

The Proposed Rule contradicts long-standing scientific understandings of human biology and thereby endangers public health. The Proposed Rule turns the clock back on girls’ and women’s rights, tramples parental rights, harms children’s interests, dismantles sex-based protections, and violates religious freedom and conscience rights of grantees and religious institutions. While the Department claims to “take[] seriously its obligations to comply with Federal religious freedom laws, including the First Amendment and RFRA,” the proposed religious exemption process is inadequate and not reflective of an agency “seriously” considering religious freedom laws. The Proposed Rule inverts our civil rights law and should be withdrawn and abandoned.  

The scholars urged HHS to withdraw the proposal. 

Other legal, religious, and policy experts also submitted comments responding to HHS’s proposal. 

About the EPPC comment signers: 

Eric Kniffin, J.D., is an EPPC Fellow, member of the HHS Accountability Project, and a former attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. 

Natalie Dodson is a Policy Analyst and member of EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project

Other organizations and experts submitting comments on the proposed rule include: 

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