Rachel Levine

By RON KAMPEAS
WASHINGTON (JTA) – The U.S. Senate in a close vote confirmed Rachel Levine to be deputy health secretary, the first time the body has confirmed a known transgender person.

Levine, who earned plaudits as Pennsylvania’s health secretary for directing that state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, noted Wednesday March 24, history-making moment in a comment to The New York Times.

“When I assume this position, I will stand on the shoulders of those who came before — people we know throughout history and those whose names we will never know because they were forced to live and work in the shadows,” Levine said.

Two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined 50 Democrats to confirm Levine in the 52-48 vote. Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, came under fire during the confirmation hearings for focusing his questions to Levine on her status as a transgender person as opposed to her policies.

Levine, 63, was born Richard and raised in Massachusetts. Upon becoming Pennsylvania’s physician general in 2015, she spoke to the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle about how her identity affected her faith. She grew up Conservative but has indicated that she is more inclined to Reform Judaism now, noting its strides in embracing transgender people.