Joe Biden’s justice department takes first major steps to reverse Trump’s relentless attacks on LGBT+ Americans

Joe Biden LGBT rights

Joe Biden’s justice department has taken the first major step to reverse Trump’s relentless attacks on LGBT+ Americans.

Throughout his four-year presidency, Donald Trump worked at every turn to limit the rights of LGBT+ people – and his administration used his final days in office to deliver a parting shot at queer people.

On Sunday (17 January), John Daukas, head of the civil rights division in Trump’s Department of Justice, issued a 23-page memo seeking to significantly warp the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v Clayton County. 

That ruling established that employers cannot discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity under sex-based Civil Rights Act protections.

Daukas’s memo sought to carve out exceptions from the ruling, arguing that religious people should still be free to discriminate against LGBT+ employees.

But Joe Biden’s administration did not take long to scrap the memo.

Greg Friel, a lawyer appointed as temporary head of the civil rights division in Biden’s Department of Justice, revoked the document on Friday (22 January), arguing that the memo was not consistent with an executive order signed by the new president on his first day in office.

Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday (20 January) reinforcing 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.

In signing that executive order, Biden made the Trump administration’s memo unworkable and inconsistent with the law.

Trump-era memorandum is ‘inconsistent’ with Joe Biden executive order.

“I have determined that this memorandum is inconsistent in many respects with the EO,” Friel wrote to his colleagues in the civil rights division, according to Politico.

“I plan to confer with Department leadership about issuing revised guidance that comports with the policy set forth in the EO. As part of that process, we will seek the input of Division subject matter experts.”

Joe Biden has won praise from LGBT+ rights groups for signing the executive order on his first day in office.

“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.”

Biden’s executive order is likely to be the first of many pro-LGBT+ policies he introduces throughout his presidency. The Democrat has also pledged to overturn the Trump-era trans military ban, which prevents trans people from living as their authentic selves while serving in the military.