Biden issues LGBT-friendly executive order

Joe Biden in the Oval Office. (Youtube screenshot.)

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order affirming the importance of LGBT rights. The order directs federal agencies to enforce federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination in a manner that also prohibits anti-LGBT discrimination in a variety of areas, including employment, education, housing, health care and credit.

“Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love,” the order states. “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.  Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes. People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination. All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Moreover, Biden’s order directs federal agencies to review all existing orders, regulations, guidance documents, policies, programs and other actions that were promulgated or administered under statutes or regulations that prohibit sex discrimination to ensure they’re LGBT-friendly.

Biden’s order doesn’t address the current ban on transgender individuals from enlisting in the U.S. military. However, Biden is expected to address that situation in a subsequent executive action in the near future.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said Biden’s order enhances the legacy of Aimee Stephens, Don Zarda and Gerald Bostock — the LGBT plaintiffs in the landmark Bostock Supreme Court case. “They stood up against discrimination,” Keisling said, in a statement. “And with its actions today, the Biden administration is recognizing the righteousness of their cause and their bravery in the face of injustice.”

James D. Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project, also hailed the executive order. 

“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,” Esseks said, in a statement. “It is such a relief to have a government that is committed to preventing discrimination as opposed to enabling it.”

Sharon M. McGowan, chief strategy officer and legal director for Lambda Legal, issued the following 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. The Supreme Court made clear last June [in Bostock] 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.”  

Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, lauded Biden for issuing the order. “On his first day in office, President Biden moved swiftly to enhance legal protections for LGBTQ people,” Shanker said, in a statement. “President Biden is starting his administration with a clear intention to secure equal justice under the law for LGBTQ Americans. This executive order is very meaningful, but in addition, Congress should follow his leadership and pass the Equality Act so he can sign it into law.”

Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso B. David called Biden’s order “the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president.”

Celena Morrison, executive director of the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs, called the executive order “a breath of fresh air.” 

“After four years of constant assaults against the LGBTQ+ community, it was a breath of fresh air to see President Biden sign an executive order strengthening protections for LGBTQ+ individuals on his very first day in office,” Morrison said, in an email. “This action reaffirms our rights and makes clear that national leadership stands with LGBTQ+ Americans. While we know there is still much work to be done to ensure true equality for the LGBTQ+ community, I could not be more thrilled to see such a clear, strong signal that the Biden administration is committed to rooting out discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” 

Thomas W. Ude Jr., legal and public policy director at Mazzoni Center, praised the order and another one issued by Biden. “On Day One, President Biden issued two executive orders addressing LGBTQ discrimination,” Ude said, in an email. “Each is significant on its own. Combined, they are momentous.  The Order on Preventing and Combating Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination puts last year’s Bostock ruling into practice. Under it, discrimination against LGBTQ people violates every federal law banning sex discrimination. And it directs agencies to address the ways in which other discrimination, such as race or disability discrimination, inflict a double or triple penalty on many LGBTQ people. It explicitly includes queer identities. It recognizes the connection between discrimination and violence against trans women, particularly women of color. The Order Advancing Racial Equity reverses the Trump administration’s efforts against racial justice. The order directs action to improve equity across race, ethnicity, religion, income, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability. Agencies must address barriers that exclude racial minorities, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ people, among others. These orders commit the federal government to concrete action for LGBTQ equality. We applaud the administration and the advocates who brought these into being. We welcome the Biden administration to the ongoing fight for LGBTQ equality. And we look forward to its delivery on the promises made Jan. 20.”

Barbara Simon, a spokesperson for GLAAD, said Biden’s orders send an important signal. “President Biden’s Day One executive orders are crucial to protecting LGBTQ people and an unmistakable signal across the government and our country that LGBTQ Americans are valued, and the rule of law protects them,” Simon said, in an email. “It’s been more than seven months since the landmark Supreme Court decision expanding civil rights protections to LGBTQ people, a long and unnecessary time of uncertainty. The Biden administration’s first executive orders are a down payment on their promises to work for full equality for LGBTQ people in all areas of society.”

In a related matter, Biden rescinded an executive order issued by former President Donald Trump that severely restricted diversity training for federal workers, contractors and grant recipients. That rescission is expected to discontinue a legal challenge to Trump’s order filed by several LGBT-advocacy groups in federal court.

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