Dr. Rachel Levine’s confirmation to the Department of Health and Human Services by the Senate on Wednesday made her the first openly transgender federal official in the nation’s history.

Levine, who previously served as Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, was confirmed in a 52-48 vote as the assistant secretary to the federal agency. She will serve under Xavier Becerra, who is the first Latino to serve as health and human services secretary.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Levine’s confirmation part of many “historic firsts” achieved under President Joe Biden’s administration.

“The Biden administration has brought many historic firsts, including the first openly gay cabinet secretary in the agency,” Schumer said. “The confirmation of Rachel Levine represents another important milestone for the American LGBTQ community,” Schumer said.

Levine is a graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School and has written on numerous public health issues, such as the opioid crisis, medical marijuana and adolescent medicine. She won confirmation as Pennsylvania secretary of health by the Republican-majority state senate after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf appointed her in 2017.

Biden described Levine as “deeply qualified” for the role in a statement announcing her appointment in January.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said.

Her confirmation was lauded Wednesday by LGBTQ activists and allies, including the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD.

“Trans people are leaders, innovators and change-makers — and we deserve a seat at every table,” the Human Rights Campaign tweeted.


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