Joe Biden announces new gender policy council to ‘aggressively protect’ women’s and LGBT+ rights

Joe Biden is due to sign the two executive orders as a part of International Women's Day 2021.

President Joe Biden has announced two new orders to promote gender equality at the federal level with a new White House Gender Policy Council.

The executive orders are set to be signed by Biden Monday (8 March) to mark International Women’s Day.

The official White House statement said: “The White House Gender Policy Council will be an essential part of the Biden-Harris administration’s plan to ensure we build a more equal and just society – by aggressively protecting the rights and unique needs of those who experience multiple forms of discrimination, including individuals who are Black, Latina, Native, Asian American and Pacific Islander, people with disabilities, and LGBTQI+.”

The statement also highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic “has exacerbated barriers that have held back women, especially women of colour”.

The first order is focused on advancing gender equity and equal opportunities for women and girls. The second is focused on reviewing the Department of Education’s policies to “guarantee education free from sexual violence”.

The executive order establishing the council will require its co-chairs to submit a strategy to address gender policies, programs and budgets across the government. The council will also employ two staff roles specifically focused on preventing and responding to gender-based violence.

The order states it is “intended to advance gender equity and equality, with sensitivity to the experiences of those who suffer discrimination based on multiple factors, including membership in an underserved community.”

The second executive order is specifically focused on “guaranteeing an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity.”

It highlights “the significant rates at which students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) are subject to sexual harassment, which encompasses sexual violence”. It also specifically notes other intersectional discrimination including “on the basis of race, disability and national origin”.

This order calls on the Education Department to re-evaluate the controversial Title IX regulation which offers protections to those accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault on campus. This was implemented under former education secretary Betsy DeVos during the Trump administration.

The move comes shortly after Biden called for the Equality Act to be passed quickly in congress to prohibit discrimination against LGBT+ people in housing, employment and education, among other areas.

Biden has also recently hired a senior advisor for LGBT+ issues to help aid the administration in its commitment to inclusion, alongside an associate director of public engagement who will also advise on LGBT+ issues.

In his victory speech after the 2020 presidential election, Biden promised: “Young, old, urban, suburban, rural, gay, straight, transgender, white, Latino, Asian, Native American… You always had my back and I’ll have yours.”