LGBTQ activists applaud Biden's decision to tap Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant health secretary

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- President-elect Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he will nominate Dr. Rachel Levine as his assistant secretary of health.

Dr. Levine, Pennsylvania's top health official, would become the first openly transgender official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. LGBTQ activists in Philadelphia are excited by the news.

"To have a sitting president recognize a transgender woman's qualifications is huge," said Deja Lynn Alvarez. "It's way beyond time for us to stop worrying about someone's race, someone's ethnicity, someone's gender, someone's sexual orientation, and worry about their qualifications."

SEE ALSO: President-elect Joe Biden picks Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine as assistant health secretary

Biden announced the news one day before his inauguration.

Alvarez, who openly ran as the first openly transgender member of Philadelphia City Council, said Levine's appointment speaks to change.

"Dr. Rachel Levine has proven herself to be one of the most qualified people through this entire pandemic," said Alvarez.

"Dr. Levine is a highly skilled and valued member of my administration and she will be greatly missed. She has been a wise and dedicated partner during this pandemic and throughout her entire career in the commonwealth," said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

Chris Bartlett, the executive director for the William Way Community Center in Philadelphia, a resource for the LGBTQ community, applauded Biden's decision.

"I think this nomination by President-elect Biden shows his sensitivity to making sure everyone is around the table. And we often say if you're not around the table, you're gonna get eaten," Bartlett said.

If confirmed as assistant secretary of health, Levine would be the highest-ranking transgender official in the U.S. government.
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