LGBTQ advocates celebrate Biden policies and push him to do even more

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The Biden administration has accomplished a lot in the first year but more work remains, they say.

After a full year in office, advocates say that President Joe Biden has accomplished a number of important policy goals to advance the LGBTQ movement. Policy experts also say that there are a number of Trump-era regulations the Biden administration has yet to reverse that would improve LGBTQ people's access to health care, their ability to seek asylum, and their educational experiences.

Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ rights advocacy group, laid out Biden's accomplishments so far as well, as the extensive work the administration has yet to complete, in a report released on Jan. 20.

The group said the Biden administration has already taken a number of steps to roll back Trump administration attacks on LGBTQ rights, including reversing the trans military ban, rescinding Trump-era waivers for religious foster care providers who discriminate against LGBTQ families, and issuing an announcement on how the administration would enforce Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs receiving federal dollars, to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination.

They also noted that Biden appointed Rachel Levine, a transgender woman who served as Pennsylvania's health secretary, as assistant health secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Biden administration also made other historic LGBTQ administration appointments, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay Cabinet member.

In January of 2021, LGBTQ media-monitoring group GLAAD, had documented more than 180 anti-LGBTQ attacks from the Trump administration through policy and statements. And advocates say a number of harmful Trump-era regulations are still in place a year after Biden took office.

Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer and legal director of Lambda Legal told the American Independent Foundation there are a few policy changes that the Biden administration should consider implementing more quickly than others. One of those would be to nominate more openly LGBTQ people to the federal bench.

"We are still seeing this incredible gap in representation from the LGBT community on the federal bench," she said.

McGowan said another action, which would require less time to implement, is the lifting of FDA restrictions on blood donation for gay and bisexual men, which have been around since the 1980s and were modified in the Obama and Trump administrations.

On Jan. 11, the American Red Cross said it's facing the worst blood shortage in more than a decade. Current policy requires celibacy of three months for men who have sex with men and wish to donate blood, but LGBTQ groups, such as the Human Rights Campaign, are advocating for an individual risk assessment instead.

The FDA is supporting a study on the issue, which could lead to a change in policy, but McGowan said, "The need for a study should not be a sort of excuse to not to address the things that are clearly on their face the wrong approach."

Lambda Legal also wants to see the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services go back to enforcing a 2016 grant rule to stop groups that receive funding from the agency from discriminating against LGBTQ people who need access to all kinds of important services, including adoption care.

"We need there to be clarity about what the federal government thinks the rules are, and returning to the 2016 grant rule would be one piece," she said. "We also need enforcement. Because the kids who are in these systems are being denied access to families that would get them into loving stable homes because there is this third party actor who has decided that they are going to use their own litmus test to decide how to administer a federal program that has been funded by taxpayer dollars."

On immigration, the organization outlines several goals for Biden to improve the well-being of LGBTQ refugees, which includes reversing Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy and issuing new regulations to replace Trump's "Death to Asylum" rule, as well as releasing transgender and gender-nonconforming people and people living with HIV from detention centers.

"The federal government really could bring a much more humane and grounded approach to these issues and we hope that will move much higher in the queue of priority," McGowan said.

The group said it would also like to see Biden use the bully pulpit more frequently to advocate for transgender youth, who have been attacked in Legislatures across the country through discriminatory bills. Biden has spoken out in favor of trans rights in the past year, but McGowan said she would like to see more of it both in public and in private spaces, especially to lawmakers.

"There are expectations that are reasonably grounded in the kind of leadership that we have seen from him in the past and a big piece of this is trying to use all of the tools in our arsenal to hamper down on the irrational fervor that is being whipped up on the other side," she said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.