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On his first day in office, just hours after his inauguration, President Joe Biden has signed 17 executive actions aimed at rolling back some of the changes brought in by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
This included what one leading advocate called the, “most substantive LGBT+ executive order in history.”
The order reinforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County last year) and ensures the federal government does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation or sexual identity.
“This Order will also direct agencies to take all lawful steps to make sure that federal anti-discrimination statutes that cover sex discrimination prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ persons,” said a press release from the Biden transition team.
The order will be of particular relevance to any LGBTQ employed by federal agencies. The previous administration had made it harder for trans people to access some healthcare benefits, and even removed the words “sexual orientation” from its workplace discrimination manual.
It’s known that President Biden also wants to quickly reverse Trump’s order to ban trans people from the military, but this may take a little longer. Biden has also said he wants to try and introduce the Equality Act within his first 100 days in office. Although yesterday’s executive order was welcomed by LGBTQ advocates, it only applies to federal agencies, and further legislation is needed for its principles to be applied more widely.
Alphonso David, President, Human Right Campaign, said, “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.
“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 … 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.”
Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs with the Trevor Project, said in a press release, “It is a true breath of fresh air to see president Biden prioritize LGBT+ non-discrimination protections and inclusive data collection on day one, along with several other key policy changes that will protect marginalized communities.”
Sharon McGowan, Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director for Lambda Legal said in a statement, “We applaud the Biden-Harris administration’s swift action in clarifying that LGBTQ people will be protected from discrimination wherever federal law prohibits discrimination because of sex.
“Today’s executive order sends a clear signal from the administration that starting on day one, they intend to return to the rule of law and are committed to enforcing the civil rights of LGBTQ people and we enthusiastically welcome it.”
Among the other executive orders and mandates Biden signed yesterday were ones relating to climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, addressing racial equity, and reversing the travel ban that largely impacted Muslim-majority countries. He also halted the US withdrawal from the World Health Organization and the construction of Trump’s border wall.
There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face. That’s why today, I am heading to the Oval Office to get right to work delivering bold action and immediate relief for American families.
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 20, 2021
“There’s no time to start like today,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office as he began signing orders. “I’m going to start by keeping the promises I made to the American people.”
Elsewhere, there were other immediate indications of change. The official White House website contact form now asks people to state their pronouns, and offers “they/them” and “other” alongside “he” and “she”. The page for the Vice President, Kamala Harris, also shows her attending a Pride festival in San Francisco – something unthinkable while Mike Pence was in office.