Rachel Levine becomes first openly transgender official confirmed by U.S. Senate

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March 24 (UPI) -- Lawmakers on Wednesday voted to confirm Rachel Levine as President Joe Biden's assistant secretary for health, making her the first openly transgender federal official to be approved by the Senate.

Senators voted 52-48 with all Democrats in favor, joined by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., urged her colleagues to vote for Levine on the Senate floor, noting her history as a "trusted voice" as Pennsylvania's secretary of health, while noting the historic nature of her confirmation.

"I've always said the people in our government should reflect the people it serves and today we will take a new historic step towards making that a reality. I'm proud to vote for Dr. Levine and incredibly proud of the progress this confirmation will represent, for our country and for transgender people all across it who are watching today," she said.

In a statement Wednesday, Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David praised Levine's confirmation as a "historic, inspiring day for the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender people."

"We are one step closer to a government that mirrors the beautiful diversity of its people," David said. "It is absolutely critical that everybody has a seat at the table and the Biden-Harris administration has made a dedicated, applaudable effort to ensure that outcome."

Levine will work alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who was confirmed last week, and will quickly face the task of leading the nation's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Pennsylvania's secretary of health, she led the state's pandemic response as well as programs on opioid prescribing guidelines, health equity and LGBTQ healthcare.

During Levine's confirmation hearing, Murray admonished Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for asking Levine about "genital mutilation" to which Levine responded that "transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed."

"If I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed as the assistant secretary of health I look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office and discussing the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine," she said at the time.

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (L) looks on as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, the first Black woman to lead the department in decades, speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

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