Within the first 24 hours of his administration taking the reigns of the federal government, President Joe Biden has taken immediate executive action to restore and strengthen protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Biden’s Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government directs federal agencies to adopt a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including in federal employment, policies, programs, and services. According to the Williams Institute, this is the first day one executive order by a President to address LGBT people specifically and the first-ever executive action to mention those who identify as “queer” by name.
A second of Biden’s first day executive orders is more specifically directed toward LGBTQ+ protections. The Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation directs federal government agencies to fully implement the Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County ruling that established that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people from discrimination at work based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This ruling, which surprised observers by coming in with 6-3 vote, provided an important precedent protecting the LGBTQ+ community, but the Trump administration’s policies undermined its implementation. Moving forward, Biden’s EO indicates a return to implementing protections for sexual minorities.
The importance of Biden’s affirmation of this ruling is difficult to overstate: According to Williams Institute research, 13 million LGBTQ youth and adults live in the US. Fewer than half of them are currently covered by state-level laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“On his very first day in office, President Biden is stating clearly that there is no place for discrimination in the federal government,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Bostock v. Clayton County was a major victory for LGBTQ Americans. Today’s executive order moves us another step toward a day when transgender people can openly live as who they are without being targeted for discrimination.”
“This action by the Biden administration recognizes what the Supreme Court held last June and what we’ve long known: LGBTQ people are protected by our civil rights laws,” said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project and counsel for Supreme Court plaintiffs Aimee Stephens and Don Zarda. “We will work with the Biden administration to ensure this executive order is fully implemented and that the federal government aggressively pursues reports of discrimination against LGBTQ people—not just in the workplace, but in education, housing, health care, and taxpayer-funded programs. It is such a relief to have a government that is committed to preventing discrimination as opposed to enabling it.”
While this step is a positive move after years of obstruction, activists have high hopes for further executive actions to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ Americans. The ACLU’s priority for the Biden administration is an executive order related to accurate ID documents.
“Trans and non-binary people belong, and we need IDs that accurately reflect who we are so we can travel, apply for jobs, and enter public establishments without risk of harassment or harm,” said ACLU Trans Justice Campaign Manager LaLa Zannell. “We know who we are, and we need the federal government to recognize who we are.”