Severino brings with him a strong background in the field of civil rights law. Prior to his work at Heritage starting in 2015, he served as a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division for seven years.
There, Severino litigated cases including HIV discrimination, racism, and housing discrimination.
One of the cases he worked on was United States v. Birdie Wren, where a 26 year-old mother – who was HIV-positive – and her four year-old son were denied consideration for an apartment lease in Chicago because of the woman’s medical condition.
In another case he worked on, United States v. Stonebridge at Bear Creek LLP et al, an apartment complex and the management company had systematically screened out persons of perceived Middle Eastern or South Asian descent and segregated them into separate buildings from the rest of the tenants.
The Justice Department successfully sought fines and damage payments for violations of the Fair Housing Act.
Before his time at the Justice Department, Severino was chief operations officer at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
He will be needed at HHS because of the agency’s recent bias against pro-life groups, Franck argued:
“During the Obama administration, HHS became an aggressive discriminator against employers, insurers, and health care providers who only wanted to be left alone to act on their moral principles in favor of innocent human life, and on their religiously informed consciences against cooperation with evil.”
For example, when the state of California forced employers – including churches – to include abortion coverage in health plans, the HHS office for civil rights would not honor a challenge to that mandate from churches and religious freedom advocates.
Then-director Jocelyn Samuels said the mandate did not violate the Weldon Amendment, which bars federal funding of states and localities that discriminate against health providers who refuse to perform or assist abortions. Samuels said the entities bringing the challenge were not themselves health providers.
The U.S. bishops’ conference called the office’s decision “shocking.”
Franck predicted that Severino could help in such cases, and that his appointment “is very good news for the advancement of that office’s true mission.”
(Story continues below)
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