Saying it was the policy of his administration from his first day in office to “prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation,” President Joe Biden has signed a sweeping executive order that ensures protections against discrimination for LGBTQ+ people in government and elsewhere. The signature came just hours after Biden was inaugurated — at an event featuring a musical performance by Lady Gaga — and was one in a number of moves that affirm the administration's commitment to the community. Among other things, the White House website is already reflecting the new change in direction for the government, letting visitors choose their own pronouns. It was a busy first day for President Biden setting the country back on the right course.
Entitled the “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” the order gives the government 100 days to identity and eliminate discriminatory policies and practices, as well as create a plan to ensure full implementation of the executive order going forward.
“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 reads. “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.” The Human Rights Campaign called it the "most substantive, wide-ranging LGBTQ order in U.S. history."
The new government was moving quickly to stamp out past wrongs and create a more inclusive environment going forward. The White House website reflected this change almost immediately. Visitors no longer have a binary choice of genders from which to select. The new pull down options include she/her, he/him, they/them, other, or “Prefer not to share.”
The announcement of the signing was met with widespread relief and praise from the LGBTQ+ community.
“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,” Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “By fully implementing the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Bostock, the federal government will enforce federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and education, and other key areas of life.”
“From racial equity to fair immigration policies to specifically combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, the Biden-Harris administration clearly understands that there exist chasms of disparity for so many of us,” Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a statement. “These actions rightly begin to immediately address the over-arching crises of the pandemic, the economy, and the clear and present danger of white supremacy, while leading the way to address the many ways diverse communities face disparities on every level.”
The new president officially gave the attorney general and the heads of each agency 100 days to “review all existing orders, regulations, guidance documents, policies, programs, or other agency actions” for compliance with federal law and the new policies of the executive order, and to “consider whether to revise, suspend, or rescind such agency actions” that do not comply. They must also create a plan of action to ensure full protections in their individual agencies going forward within those 100 days as well.
In a refreshing departure from the past administration, Biden specifically called out the discrimination and violence that disproportionately impacts the Black transgender community, highlighting the sad fact that “transgender Black Americans face unconscionably high levels of workplace discrimination, homelessness, and violence, including fatal violence.” 2020 was the deadliest year on record for the transgender community, with a record 44 known violent killings, with Black transgender women disproportionately impacted.
But there are other things in the works as well: Antony Blinken, who is Biden's pick for Secretary of State, has said he hopes to appoint an LGBTQ+ envoy and allow U.S. embassies to fly the Pride flag again. This envoy was not filled under Trump and in 2019 embassies were denied permission to fly Pride flags for Pride month. That ban prompted some embassies to find creative ways of working around the government in order to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. Blinken seemed to do well in his confirmation hearing and is expected to receive an affirmative vote from the Senate.