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Former Pennsylvania secretary of health Dr. Rachel Levine was appointed by the senate as the United States' assistant secretary of health on Mar. 24. (Governor Tom Wolf | CC By 2.0)

The United States Senate confirmed Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender federal official to win confirmation, as the nation’s assistant secretary for health on Wednesday.

The U.S. Senate voted 52-48, mostly along party lines, in favor of her confirmation for the key post at the Department of Health and Human Services. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted with the Democrats in favor of confirming Levine.

Prior to being confirmed as assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, Levine served as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health since 2017 after serving as the commonwealth's physician general for two years. Levine was the face of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 response, leading daily press briefings and coordinating efforts with local officials to keep the virus from spreading. 

Although Levine is not the first transgender government official, she is the first transgender official to hold a position that requires Senate confirmation. 

“As Vice President Harris has said, I recognize that I may be the first, but am heartened by the knowledge that I will not be the last,” Levine wrote in a statement published in The New York Times. 

Levine faced transphobic questioning and commentary during a Senate hearing and through social media, something she has experienced throughout her career.

She addressed the difficulties faced by transgender youth in her statement. 

“Sadly, some of the challenges [transgender people] face are from people who would seek to use your identity and circumstance as a weapon. It hurts. I know. I cannot promise you that these attacks will immediately cease, but I will do everything I can to support you and advocate for you,” she wrote in The New York Times. 

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