submitted by Christopher Phillips, Esq.
Just five short weeks into President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidency, the administration has sent a clear message. LGBTQ+ rights are a priority. On his first day in office, President Biden issued the Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. The policy behind the order is that “[e]very 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.” To accomplish this goal, the Executive Order calls on executive agencies to re-evaluate rules and regulations to ensure that they protect against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Several agencies have already responded to the President’s call to action. Notably, on February 11, 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a press release and memorandum, announcing that it will enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
President Biden has also made the United States military more inclusive by signing the Executive Order on enabling All Qualified Americans to Serve Their Country in Uniform, on January 25, 2021. This action overturned the previous administration’s ban on transgender individuals joining the Armed Forces. In overturning this ban, President Biden made clear his “conviction as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces that gender identity should not be a bar to military service.”
In addition to these domestic policies, the Biden Administration has also committed to promoting LGBTQ+ protections abroad. On February 4, 2021, the administration issued the Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World. This memorandum directs all U.S. agencies engaged abroad to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ persons. Additionally, the memo requires increased training and protections to address the needs of LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers.
Through these actions, the Biden Administration has clearly stated that all persons must be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nevertheless, absent some action by Congress, these Executive actions are at a risk of being overturned by subsequent administrations. Late last week, Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island re-introduced the Equality Act into the U.S. House of Representatives (click here for the full text). The Equality Act codifies prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation into federal law. In doing so, the Equality Act would expand such protections in the areas of employment, housing, credit, education, and public places.
According to Freedom for All Americans, there are currently 27 states with no statewide protections against discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act would ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals in these states can live free from discrimination, by instituting widespread federal protections.
We urge you to show support for the Equality Act by contacting your elected officials. To find the contact information for your elected official, visit https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials.