In one of his first actions hours after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an Executive Order to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. President Biden also revoked his predecessor Donald Trump’s Executive Order banning race and gender diversity training.

LGBTQI rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said that “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.”

17 Executive Orders On Day One

The order protecting LGBTQI persons from discrimination wherever Federal law applies is one of the 17 Day One Executive Orders signed by Biden. The others include ending the travel ban from Muslim-majority countries, rejoining the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Paris Climate Agreement, and mandating mask wearing and social distancing in federal buildings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections.

“I think some of the things we’re going to be doing are bold and vital, and there’s no time to start like today,” Biden said after signing the orders. 

Equal Treatment For All

“All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Biden outlined his administration’s policy in the Executive Order. 

“Every 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. Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.  Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes. People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination.”

100 Days To Equality

President Joe Biden has given Federal agencies 100 days to review, revise or rescind orders or policies that discriminate on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. The order also asks the head of Federal agencies to, in consultation with the Attorney General, identify measures and actions for equal treatment, irrespective of gender identity or sexual orientation.

 The Executive Order confirms the historic 2020 Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County that said that sex discrimination covers discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Biden’s executive order means that the benefits of the judgment that related to workplaces and employment, would be available to LGBTQI people and protect them from discrimination  in education, housing, credit and healthcare.

The Executive Order also identified the intersections of identities by citing that “transgender Black Americans face unconscionably high levels of workplace discrimination, homelessness, and violence, including fatal violence.”

The Trump administration had tried to limit the impact of the Supreme Court order in a 23-page memo by the Justice Department, which had said that the ruling which protects employees does not extend to other areas. The memo had also claimed that employers could discriminate against LGBTQI employees on the basis of religious beliefs.

“We applaud the Biden-Harris administration’s swift action in clarifying that LGBTQ people will be protected from discrimination wherever federal law prohibits discrimination because of sex. Today’s Executive Order sends a clear signal from the administration that starting on day one, they intend to return to the rule of law and are committed to enforcing the civil rights of LGBTQ people and we enthusiastically welcome it,” said Sharon McGowan, Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director for Lambda Legal.

Rolls Back Ban On Diversity Training

The move to rescind Trump’s ban on diversity training will allow the current administration to further its priority areas of equality and equity for everyone. In a September 2020 order Trump had described race and gender diversity training as “un-American”. 

Another Executive Order to ‘Advance Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities’ said that equity would mean “consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities.” 

 The order also directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to study methods to assist agencies “in assessing equity with respect to race, ethnicity, religion, income, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability.”

Transgender Military Ban

One of Biden’s campaign promises was to overturn on day one the Trump administration’s ban on transgender persons serving in the military. The slew of Executive Orders on Wednesday did not mention the issue but White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki assured that revoking the ban on transgender service members would be among the executive actions “in the coming days and weeks.”

On Tuesday, Biden’s pick to head the Pentagon, retired Army General Lloyd Austin, during his Senate confirmation hearing said that he supported the plan to overturn the ban on transgender service members.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in on Wednesday morning. Biden has nominated two LGBTQI members to his cabinet – openly gay Pete Buttigieg as the new Transportation Secretary and openly transgender Dr. Rachel Levine as the new Assistant Health Secretary. The Senate is scheduled to take up the appointments for confirmation in the coming days.

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