Joe Biden signs ‘most substantive LGBT+ executive order in history’ as America quickly moves away from Trump’s dystopia

US president Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of orders in the Oval Office of the White House

In a single afternoon, a legacy of a former president was undone – US president Joe Biden signed a blitz of decrees Wednesday (20 January) including what activists have deemed the “most substantive LGBT+ executive order in history”.

As America moves away from the Trump administration, which sought to dismantle or weaken critical LGBT+ federal policies, the Biden-Harris administration is already working to restore them. Biden signed several orders in this first few minutes in the Oval Office.

The move represents the first step in healing one of the deepest rifts between LGBT+ Americans and the government which has festered across Trump’s leadership, where his officials stripped trans people of protections within healthcare, defence, education, housing and more.

Among the 17 executive orders, which range from climate change to addressing racial strife, is one that reinforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Expanding on the landmark Supreme Court ruling, it requires the federal government does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The order will, in other words, reassure countless LGBT+ staffers at federal agencies that the government will not discriminate against them in the workplace.

US president Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of orders in the Oval Office of the White House. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

It “builds on the US Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v Clayton County (2020) and ensures that the federal government interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” the White House wrote in a statement.

It’s an expansive decree that is a striking repudiation of an array of Trump-era moves that bulldozed LGBT+ protections, from snarling regulation that forbade healthcare discrimination against trans people to snubbing the word “sexual orientation” from its workplace discrimination manual.

Also in the pipeline in the quick turnaround from Trump’s policies – the removal of what essentially amounted to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on trans people serving in the US military. Biden throughout his campaign pledged to peel it back, although the Pentagon may take upwards of a year to fully dismantle it.

Joe Biden hailed as a ‘breath of fresh air’ as LGBT+ activists, alongside ‘millions of Americans, breathe sigh of relief’

Some of the nation’s top LGBT+ activists and groups praised the swiftness of Biden signing the order, one that will mean “‘millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief”.

“Biden’s executive order is the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president,” wrote Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a press release.

“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.”

Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Lambda Legal, an advocacy group that has been at the forefront of an array of litigious battles against Trump, also applauded Biden. “LGBT+ people can now have confidence that the federal government will actually defend, rather than resist, our right to be free from discrimination,” said the group’s legal director Sharon McGowan in a news release.

The order is more than just a symbolic gesture, Trevor Project bosses stressed, considering that one-third of LGBT+ youth and young adults say they have experienced workplace discrimination, according to its annual survey.

“It is a true breath of fresh air to see president Biden prioritise LGBT+ non-discrimination protections and inclusive data collection on day one, along with several other key policy changes that will protect marginalized communities,” said Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs, in a press release.

Above all, a sense of hope. Executive director of Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBT+ civil rights organisation, Rick Chavez Zbur said: “On their very first day, the Biden-Harris Administration is already hard at work delivering on that promise — and I know they’re just getting started.”