7 things Biden has already done to make life better for LGBTQ people

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The White House said, 'President Biden is committed to taking a whole-of-government approach to advancing LGBTQ+ equality.'

During his presidential campaign last year, Joe Biden frequently advocated for progress in the LGBTQ rights movement. He said that, as president, he would "win full rights for transgender Americans" and expressed concern over killings of transgender people, of which in 2020 there were more than in any other year tracked by the Human Rights Campaign.

Biden said he would make passing the Equality Act, federal legislation that would clarify and expand nondiscrimination protections in housing, public accommodations, jury service, and other areas, a "top priority" in his first 100 days in office.

In his first 51 days in office, President Biden has shown a commitment to LGBTQ equality in a number of policy areas, including through executive orders, memorandums, and the legislation he champions, and has prioritized LGBTQ diversity in his administration.

On his first day in office, the president issued an executive order that mandated implementation across all federal agencies of the Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County that LGBTQ people are included in the definition of people who can be discriminated against on the basis of sex. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development responded by saying it would look into incidents of discrimination against queer, transgender and nonbinary people.

On Monday, the Biden administration released an executive order mandating that "all students should be guaranteed an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including discrimination in the form of sexual harassment, which encompasses sexual violence, and including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity."

It directed the secretary of education to review regulations, guidance documents, and orders to ensure they are in line with the executive order. Biden's pick for education secretary, Dr. Miguel Cardona, was confirmed to the position this month.

Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, the interim executive director of GLSEN, a group that advocates for inclusive policies for LGBTQ students in schools, stated, "This order is a crucial step in the right direction, but there is much more work ahead to ensure that all schools are safe for LGBTQ+ students."

This month, Biden appointed Reggie Greer as a senior adviser on LGBTQ issues in the White House. Previously, Greer was the LGBTQ+ vote director for the Biden campaign. He also worked at the LGBTQ Victory Institute, which does campaign trainings and leadership programs for LGBTQ people interested in running for political office, and in the Obama administration.

When asked what Greer will do in his role, a White House spokesperson released a statement that said, "President Biden is committed to taking a whole-of-government approach to advancing LGBTQ+ equality, which includes building a White House and Administration that represents and champions the diversity of America."

The spokesperson added that after the actions he has already taken, "President Biden will build on this progress – listening to and engaging with LGBTQ+ Americans, including transgender Americans who deserve equal protection under the law.”

"He is really committed to using whatever position he is in to amplify the voices of the folks that need to be heard. He's got such a great grasp of the issues impacting LGBT folks and is just incredibly thoughtful in his approach to policy," Sharita Gruberg, vice president for the LGBTQ research and communications project at the Center for American Progress, said of Greer.

She said that although the LGBTQ community had a conduit to the White House through the Office of Public Liaison, Greer's role appears to be different.

"[This position] is explicitly focused on the LGBTQ community, which is a really great recognition of the importance of serving the community in the White House," Gruberg said. 

In addition to these actions, the Biden administration has been discussing with pro-LGBTQ equality groups the possibility of providing the option of "X" gender markers on federal documents. Some intersex and nonbinary people have said they want the option.

On Monday, Jennifer Klein, the head of the White House Gender Policy Council, was asked whether the administration would implement it by executive order. Klein said, "That's certainly something that we'll look at, but I honestly don't know whether that requires an executive order."

In addition to these recent actions, Biden moved to reverse the ban on transgender people serving in the military instituted under the Trump administration; issued a memorandum that said executive departments and agencies engaged abroad must promote LGBTQ rights; and sent an immigration bill to Congress that includes protections for LGBTQ families.

He has also begun to meet expectations for LGBTQ diversity in his administration. Pete Buttigieg, Biden's transportation secretary, was the first openly gay man ever confirmed by the Senate to a Cabinet position. Dr. Rachel Levine, if confirmed to the position of assistant health secretary, will be the first openly transgender official confirmed by the Senate.

As promised, Biden continues to press for passage of the Equality Act.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.