Joe Biden to kick off presidency with sweeping executive order against anti-LGBT+ discrimination

Incoming President Joe Biden

Joe Biden is to issue a sweeping executive order affirming LGBT+ non-discrimination protections in one of his first acts in office.

After assuming the presidency on Wednesday (20 January), Biden is set to unleash a raft of measures aimed at repealing the most harmful parts of the Trump agenda.

The day-one actions expected include “one of the most substantive pro-equality executive orders in history to protect Americans against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity”, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

The Biden transition team included an order on “preventing and combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation” among a list of day-one actions.

There is no specific federal law banning anti-LGBT+ discrimination in the US, with Republicans in Congress long blocking the Equality Act to add LGBT+ protections.

In 2014, Barack Obama signed a pioneering executive order in 2014 to outlaw anti-LGBT+ workplace discrimination, though limitations on his executive powers meant it only applies to federal contractors.

Joe Biden taking rapid action to undo damage of Trump administration.

Biden’s order is expected to go further, seizing upon the landmark Supreme Court ruling in in Bostock v Clayton County which found that anti-LGBT+ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination – to direct the full implementation of LGBT+ non-discrimination rules.

He is also expected to take rapid action to end the ban on transgender people serving in the US military, rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, normalise relations with other countries, and re-engage with the World Health Organisation.

US President Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings said: “Today’s inauguration of the Biden-Harris administration starts an important, new chapter for LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV.

“At the heart of the Biden-Harris administration’s priorities is restoring equality, dignity, and justice to the many marginalized and impacted communities who have lived in the crosshairs of Trump’s malice and vitriol for the past four years.

“After decades of progress in the fight to secure important rights, LGBTQ+ people found themselves more vulnerable than ever, as Trump and his allies mounted an aggressive, four-year campaign of cruelty that sought to undermine and dismantle important protections against discrimination, and to ultimately erase us — along with so many others.

“But it’s a new day in America. The Biden-Harris administration is already poised to usher in a new era for LGBTQ+ people, not only by undoing the devastation wrought by Trump’s policies, but by pioneering and championing unprecedented efforts that send an important signal to LGBTQ+ people everywhere: That we deserve fair treatment, equitable representation, freedom from discrimination, and equal dignity in the eyes of the law.

“As we struggle to combat and contain a pandemic and public health crisis that has already claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans, the importance of the work that lies ahead cannot be understated.”

New president may struggle to deliver on all his promises to LGBT+ community.

Among a raft of pledges to the LGBT+ community, Biden has promised a push to pass the Equality Act – which would add specific LGBT+ protections to the Civil Rights Act, within his first 100 days in office.

He had promised: “To help achieve our vision of equality, I will make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during my first 100 days.”

However, with Democrats only holding a wafer-thin majority in the Senate, Biden insiders have reportedly rowed back on the commitment, fearful of not having the votes to push through the measure amid a looming Trump impeachment trial and upcoming cabinet confirmation hearings.