When Joe Biden campaigned for president in 2020, he vowed to give LGBTQ+ people a “partner in the White House” following four years of Trump’s constant attacks on the community. According to a new report, he’s off to a pretty good start.
On Thursday, GLAAD launched the “Biden Equality Accountability Tracker,” which the national nonprofit describes as a running index of “executive orders, announcements, legislative support, and speeches that impact LGBTQ people and rights.” At the time of the project’s debut, the Biden administration had made over 24 explicitly pro-LGBTQ+ moves during its first 50 days in office, including high-profile Cabinet appointments and executive orders furthering queer and trans equality.
In a statement timed to its launch, GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis noted that the moves “are in stark contrast to the 181+ negative policies and rhetoric deployed against LGBTQ Americans by the previous administration.” Among those, the Trump White House fought to allow workplaces to terminate queer and trans employees based on their identities, rolled back protections for trans students and homeless people seeking shelter, and banned most transgender troops and people living with HIV from serving in the military.
“We have a long way to go to recover lost ground, and GLAAD will continue to hold all accountable to the truth and to their promises to support LGBTQ people,” Ellis said in an emailed statement.
In contrast, Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office instructing all federal departments to apply the Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, which found that civil rights laws in employment apply to LGBTQ+ workers. Biden’s order served to extend protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in settings like public housing and health care facilities that receive federal funding. Days later, Biden repealed Trump’s trans military ban and signed a memo committing to advancing LGBTQ+ rights in all foreign policy decisions.
More recently, Biden announced on Monday that his administration is forming an LGBTQ+-inclusive Gender Policy Council intended to increase the ”full participation of all people — including women and girls — across all aspects of our society.” According to the White House, the initiative’s goals include decreasing poverty, furthering education access, and improving the “health outcomes” of vulnerable groups.
Rolled out on International Women’s Day, the council’s formation was lauded by LGBTQ+ organizations.
Andy Marra, executive director of the Trans Legal Defense and Education Fund, told them. that it’s heartening to see the Biden White House “explicitly [focus] on ending gender-identity based discrimination” during a year in which a record number of anti-trans bills have been introduced in state legislatures. Arli Christian, campaign strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union, added that the organization is particularly “excited” to see the council develop a “much-needed government-wide strategy to advance gender equity and equality.”
“Every federal agency has a role in addressing gender-based discrimination and disparities in health care, pay, education and more,” Christian said in a statement. “This Policy Council will be a success if it can develop clear directives and guidance for federal agencies that those agencies can put into practice.”
The Policy Council’s formation was timed to an executive order stating that all students in academic environments should be “free from discrimination,” particularly addressing issues of transphobic bias, harassment, and sexual violence in schools. That language builds on Biden’s own EO from a month prior calling on government agencies to enforce LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination, which stated that “children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
While Biden’s orders combating LGBTQ+ discrimination were among the most popular from the first 50 days of his term, Republicans exploited them as a wedge issue to push right-wing policies. Prior to signing a bill banning trans girls from playing school sports in alignment with their gender, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said that the federal government “forced the issue.” This is despite the fact that proponents of the legislation can’t cite a case of a trans student athlete competing in the state.
“It’s crazy we have to address it,” tweeted Reeves last week. “[…] But the push for kids to adopt transgenderism is just wrong.”
Despite some backlash, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups hope to see Biden’s commitments to queer and trans equality continue. In addition to the slew of orders benefiting the community, his administration has named two historic picks to the Cabinet: Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg and Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. Buttigieg was confirmed on a bipartisan vote last month, while Levine has yet to receive a vote following transphobic questioning from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) during her confirmation hearing.
Reacting to the Gender Policy Council’s announcement earlier this week, the Human Rights Campaign said the Biden administration is “working to ensure LGBTQ people have a seat at every table.” “Achieving gender equality and equity is not just the right thing to do,” HRC President Alphonso Davis told them., “it will also create a stronger and more sustainable future for all of us.”
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