Metro Weekly

President Biden issues executive order protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination

Executive orders seek to reverse some of the Trump administration's more controversial policy decisions

joe biden, lgbtq, president, discrimination, executive, action, order
Joe Biden — Photo: Gage Skidmore

President Joe Biden has issued several executive orders reversing some of President Trump’s most criticized actions during his presidency, including one that prohibits anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

The LGBTQ-specific order is designed to combat discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation and builds on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that LGBTQ people were protected from employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It will ensure that the federal government embraces that interpretation when implementing and enforcing laws prohibiting sex-based discrimination.

“On his very first day in office, President Biden is stating clearly that there is no place for discrimination in the federal government,” Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. “Bostock v. Clayton County was a major victory for LGBTQ Americans. Today’s executive order moved us another step toward a day when transgender people can openly live as who they are without being targeted for discrimination.”

“Biden’s executive order is the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Today, millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their President and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal.

“By fully implementing the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Bostock, the federal government will enforce federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and education, and other key areas of life,” David added. “While detailed implementation across the federal government will take time, this Executive Order will begin to immediately change the lives of the millions of LGBTQ people seeking to be treated equally under the law.

“The full slate of Day One Executive Orders mark a welcome shift from the politics of xenophobia and discrimination to an administration that embraces our world, its people and its dreamers. We look forward to continuing to engage with the White House, Department of Justice, and other agencies to ensure that Bostock is properly implemented across the federal government.”

On that note, Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN, said in a statement that the executive order would not only address Title VII workplace protections, but would strengthen the position of the incoming administration regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s nondiscrimination policies.

Under the interpretation favored by the Biden administration, the Department of Education has a responsibility to protect LGBTQ youth, particularly transgender youth, from discrimination under Title IX, which is designed to prohibit sex-based discrimination.

Under the Trump administration, the Education Department ruled that Title IX’s protections did not extend to transgender students, and former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued guidance that permitted the department’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate complaints of discrimination against transgender students targeted or harassed for their gender nonconformity, but explicitly refused to pursue claims of discrimination involving a trans student banned from restrooms or changing facilities that do not match their assigned sex at birth. 

While it will take a while for a new Education Secretary to issue new guidance rescinding the Trump-era policies, Biden’s larger executive order, which recognizes anti-LGBTQ discrimination as a form of sex discrimination, will bolster efforts by the agency to better protect transgender students in particular.

Related: Joe Biden pledges to have “most pro-equality administration in history”

“This order signals the new administration’s plan to advance LGBTQ+ equity through an intersectional lens that centers all of our most vulnerable communities, including LGBTQ+ people of color, LGBTQ+ people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ immigrants,” Byard said. “We look forward to working with the Biden Administration to continue to advance LGBTQ+ students’ rights by supporting the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Equality Act, strengthening federal survey data collection on LGBTQ+ students’ experiences and identifying ways to direct additional school resources to programs that support underserved LGBTQ+ students and educators.”

Sharon McGowan, the chief strategy officer and legal director for Lambda Legal, said in a statement that the executive order sends a “clear signal” that the Biden-Harris administration is committed to enforcing civil rights laws.

“The Supreme Court made clear last June that discrimination against someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is a form of sex discrimination, and with today’s announcement, LGBTQ people can now have confidence that the federal government will actually defend, rather than resist, our right to be free from discrimination,” McGowan said.

One order reverses a Trump executive order excluding undocumented immigrants from the reapportionment count — a move that will ensure states with large populations of undocumented immigrants are not denied federal money or resources, or equitable political representation.

See also: Biden promises he will “flat-out change the law” to protect LGBTQ people

Another order seeks to ensure equity — defined as the fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals — for underserved communities, including communities of the color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, religious minorities, and people who live in rural areas, ensuring that they are granted fair access to federal resources and government benefits to which they are entitled.

That order also rescinds the 1776 Commission, which sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice, and reverses a Trump executive order prohibiting agencies, contractors, and recipients of federal grant money from implementing diversity, inclusion and anti-bias trainings. Several LGBTQ and allied groups sued over that order, with a federal judge ultimately issuing an injunction to block the Trump administration from enforcing it.

Erin Uritus, the CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, praised Biden for showing with the Bostock order that the administration is prioritizing a ban on federal discrimination. She also praised the reversal of the ban on diversity and inclusion training.

“Muzzling our federal employees and contractors is a recipe for reinforcing systemic racism, bias, and discrimination,” she said. “We look forward to helping build a culture of belonging.”

Rea Carey, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force,  said Biden’s executive orders “exemplify the kind of leadership and breadth of understanding of what we face as a nation and as a community.”

Carey praised the executive order building upon the Bostock decision as a “tremendous step forward for LGBTQ Americans,” expressing hope that the Biden administration and a more LGBTQ-friendly Congress will subsequently take another step forward by passing the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to permanently enshrine protections for the LGBTQ community into law, preventing the prospect of a future president reversing Biden’s order. 

In keeping with the Task Force’s long history of emphasizing intersectionality, Carey also noted that even those orders that do not explicitly mention LGBTQ rights still affect significant numbers of LGBTQ individuals with multiple identities, including but not limited to people of color, ethnic and religious minorities, poor and working-class individuals, immigrants, and transgender and nonbinary individuals.

See also: Federal judge blocks Trump rule that would turn away most LGBTQ asylum seekers

“The LGBTQ+ community once again has a place at the table and offers us an opportunity for progress on all fronts and a commitment to leave no one behind. It is time to truly embrace the diversity and inclusion of LGBTQ people in every aspect of our nation’s political, economic, racial and social fabric,” Carey said in a statement. “Immigration is an LGBTQ issue. Racial equity and justice is an LGBTQ issue. Economic disparities are LGBTQ issues. Reversing the Muslim ban is an LGBTQ issue. Protecting DREAMers is an LGBTQ issue. “

“From racial equity to fair  immigration policies to specifically combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, the Biden-Harris administration clearly understands that there exist chasms of disparity for so many of us,” Carey said in a statement. “These actions rightly begin to immediately address the over-arching crises of the pandemic, the economy, and the clear and present danger of white supremacy, while leading the way to address the many ways diverse communities face disparities on every level.”

“The Biden-Harris administration is already making historic strides for LGBTQ Americans, with a Cabinet and staff that include a record number of LGBTQ people, and executive orders enacted on day one that commit to federal workplaces free of discrimination against LGBTQ Americans,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD, said in a statement.

“Discrimination, systemic racism and the negative policies and attacks by the previous administration created conditions for the pandemic and economic crisis to disproportionately impact the LGBTQ community and queer people of color,” Ellis added. “The time has never been more urgent to take bold steps for equality to lift and heal all Americans.

“GLAAD urges swift action including the reversal of the ban on transgender Americans in the military and for Congress to pass and President Biden to sign The Equality Act into law to provide comprehensive protections from discrimination for every LGBTQ person across the country…. We have every expectation the new Congress and President will align those core values with laws to secure them, and center equality and justice for all.”

See also: Joe Biden could reverse transgender military ban in 30 days

The Trevor Project, the organization focused on combating youth suicide, also praised the executive order, but noted that more work remains for the new administration. 

“It is a true breath of fresh air to see President Biden prioritize LGBTQ non-discrimination protections and inclusive data collection on day one, along with several other key policy changes that will protect marginalized communities,” Sam Brinton, the organization’s vice president of advocacy and government affairs, said in a statement.

“At The Trevor Project, we know that ending LGBTQ youth suicide will require a comprehensive, intersectional approach, including new policies and programs aimed at eradicating risk factors for suicide like LGBTQ-based discrimination, mental health care disparities, and conversion therapy,” Brinton added. “We look forward to working with the Biden Administration and both parties in Congress to tackle these issues and save young LGBTQ lives.”

Read more:

Joe Biden sworn in as president: “A new day has begun” for LGBTQ Americans

Biden picks trans woman Dr. Rachel Levine to be assistant health secretary

Gay D.C. man receives rainbow flag with a swastika in an anonymous letter

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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