Transgender woman Rachel Levine confirmed to US health post, a first

Washington, March 25 (AFP/APP): The US Senate took the historic step Wednesday of confirming pediatrician Rachel Levine as President Joe Biden’s assistant secretary of health, making her the highest-ranking transgender official to serve in the federal government.

Levine was leading the Pennsylvania Department of Health when Biden tapped her for the national post in January, in a notable first for the LGBTQ community. The pick was also a contrast to policies of previous president Donald Trump that were seen as discriminatory. The confirmation vote was 52 to 48, with two Republicans joining all Democrats in support of Levine, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine.

As assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, the 63-year-old will be part of the team leading the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the deaths of more than 545,000 people in the United States.

The Senate last week confirmed California attorney general Xavier Becerra as the new health secretary, the first Latino to head the department. “Dr. Levine becoming the first openly transgender American to earn the confirmation of the Senate is a watershed moment in US history,” Matt Hill, a White House spokesman, said on Twitter. “A government of the people, by the people, and for the people — ALL people.”

Lambda Legal, which promotes civil rights of the lesbian, gay and transgender community, celebrated Levine’s confirmation as marking “the return of science, competence, and empathy to one of the most important institutions in our government and at one of the most critical public health moments in our nation’s history.”

Biden became the first president-elect to thank transgender supporters during his election victory speech, on November 7 in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

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