'The work is never done until all of us are free.'
LGBTQ advocacy groups celebrated Democrat Joe Biden's win in the 2020 presidential election last week after years of the administration of Donald Trump launching policy after policy against the rights of LGBTQ people. But the organizations also vowed to avoid becoming "complacent" during a more LGBTQ-friendly administration and say they will hold the Biden administration accountable for its actions.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, stated over the weekend: "We have a lot to be hopeful for, but for our dreams to become a reality, we must now put in the work to hold this new administration accountable to their promises to the LGBTQ+ community and so many others of which we are part."
"Additionally, let us not become complacent or pause in the comfort of a more LGBTQ+ friendly administration," Carey warned.
President-elect Joe Biden sent a clear signal to LGBTQ Americans on Saturday that he would support their rights, mentioning transgender voters in a speech celebrating his win, the first time a president-elect has mentioned transgender people in a victory speech.
Biden listed the various groups whose votes won him the presidency: "Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives, young, old, urban, suburban, rural, gay, straight, transgender, white, Latino, Asian, Native American."
During the last months of his campaign, Biden said, "There should be zero discrimination" against transgender people and denounced killings of transgender women of color.
He told Human Rights Campaign in September: "Together we'll pass the Equality Act, protect LGBTQ youth, expand access to health care, support LGBTQ workers, win full rights for transgender Americans, recommit to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2025, advance LGBT rights around the globe, not just at home."
Biden has promised to reverse Trump administration policies that permit discrimination against LGBTQ people and said that passing the Equality Act in his first 100 days in office would be a "top" priority.
Among other plans shared on his campaign website, Biden has said he will prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the federal government, do more to assist homeless LGBTQ veterans, support the passage of a bill focused on the equal treatment of LGBTQ seniors, and update FDA regulations that currently restrict blood donations based on sexual orientation.
LGBTQ advocacy groups say they will watch closely to see if Biden and the officials he appoints follow through on the many pledges he has made to advance the rights of LGBTQ people.
The National LGBTQ Task Force said the work is "far from done" and the first step for a Biden administration should be to roll back all of the Trump administration's actions against LGBTQ equality. The organization said this should include the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's rule encouraging shelters to restrict access for transgender homeless people; the Education Department and Justice Department's decision to undo Obama-era guidance protecting transgender students from discrimination at school; and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' decision to gut a regulation in the Affordable Care Act that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in health care.
Shanequa Davis, senior organizer at the National LGBTQ Task Force, said the group will continue to center race in its work, including on federal bills that directly affect people of color such as the Equality Act, which would clarify and expand LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, and the Justice in Policing Act, which would create national standards for use of force and a national police conduct registry, among other reforms.
It also supports the BREATHE Act, which would divest taxpayer money from policing and invest it in alternatives for keeping communities safe. Davis said the organization wants the Biden administration to make these bills a priority.
Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN, a group focused on ridding schools of anti-LGBTQ harassment and discrimination, celebrated a "resounding defeat for an administration that attacked LGBTQ+ people at all intersections of identity and experience, at every opportunity."
She added: "But we cannot allow ourselves to be complacent. There is much work ahead to rebuild and repair our schools to ensure that an LGBTQ+ child finds safety and liberation in education."
A recent GLSEN school climate survey found that in recent years, after two decades of trends of improvement in the climate in schools for LGBTQ students, progress has been interrupted.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation released a number of clear asks of the Biden administration on Sunday. The foundation, which advocates against hate-based violence and is named after a young gay man who was viciously attacked and left to die in Wyoming in the 1990s, said the White House and new members of Congress should prioritize passing the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, intended "To provide incentives for hate crime reporting, provide grants for State-run hate crime hotlines, and establish alternative sentencing for individuals convicted under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act," and the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which creates a new criminal civil rights violation for lynching.
The foundation also advocated for a Biden administration to budget funding for the Justice Department, U.S. attorneys, and the FBI to "create incentives for participation" in data collection on hate crime statistics and include things such as mental health services and victim compensation funds for people who are targeted in hate crimes.
Cynthia Deitle, the organization's director of civil rights reform, said victims of hate crimes often experience anxiety and depression and may not socialize or go to work out of fear of being targeted again.
Its final request was for Biden and administration officials to "use their bully pulpit to educate about the impact of hate violence."
Matthew Shepard Foundation staff stated, "We must continue to use our voices and stand up for what is right. We must continue to hold our elected officials accountable."
The Transgender Law Center also pledged to keep advocating for its priorities and goals with the Biden administration. The center tweeted on Saturday: "We won't let up on the pressure we've built on governments to decriminalize our communities — Black folks, trans folks, sex workers, migrants, folks who are at the intersections."
The center added, "We are keeping a watchful eye on Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The work is never done until all of us are free."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.