President Joe R. Biden speaks about the economy before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on 22 January 2021. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
In November, Biden promised to appoint a cabinet that “looks like America” and follow through with a long list of LGBT+ policy pledges – from scrapping Trump’s ban on trans military recruits to passing an anti-discrimination law.
So what has Biden done for LGBT+ Americans during his first week in office?
Joe Biden reversed the transgender military ban
The White House said: “Transgender service members will no longer be subject to the possibility of discharge or separation on the basis of gender identity.”
“President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service and that America’s strength is found in its diversity,” the White House added.
Donald Trump first announced on Twitter in July 2017 that he would be banning trans people from serving in the military. The ban came into force in April 2019, following a series of legal challenges.
Trump claimed the policy was not an outright ban on trans troops currently in service, but it meant that a trans person could only enlist if they served in the gender they were assigned at birth.
Pledge to restore Obama’s trans bathroom protection
President Biden has vowed to restore Barack Obama‘s trans bathroom protections for students.
Biden’s administration issued a 10-day list of executive orders and planned policy proposals. The team reportedly put forward plans to reinstate federal guidance protecting trans students in public schools, allowing trans teens to use bathrooms, locker rooms and other school facilities matching their gender identity.
In 2017, Trump revoked the federal rule, put in effect by Obama, which extended protections under Title IX – a federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools, officials said at the time – to trans students.
Joe Biden reassured LGBT+ employees that they would not be discriminated against at work
Among the flurry of executive orders the president signed on his first day, president Biden put forward an order upholding the Supreme Court’s ruling from June 2020 which prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The order reinforced Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It requires the federal government not discriminate against LGBT+ staff members on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
In a statement, the White House said: “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.”
Joe Biden appointing a line-up of LGBT+ staffers
President Biden has also begun the process of diversifying his administration from the top down. Pete Buttigieg has been nominated as transportation secretary, meaning he is likely to soon become the first openly gay cabinet secretary in US history.
Similarly, Biden nominated Dr Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health and human services. This would make her the highest-ranking transgender official in US history if confirmed by the Senate.
Carlos Elizondo, an openly gay veteran aide, will be in charge of the White House social office, overseeing all official social events. Karine Jean-Pierre takes the role of deputy White House press secretary. She’s now the first out lesbian and first Black woman to hold the key media-facing role.
Focus on inclusion more broadly
Alongside his focus on LGBT+ inclusion, Biden reversed some of his predecessor’s most divisive policies, including rescinding the so-called “Muslim ban”. The ban was an executive order Trump signed in 2017 that banned travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the US.
Biden also announced the US will once again become a party to the Paris Agreement, the international treaty on climate change.
Additionally, the Biden administration revived plans to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, as was planned under Barack Obama. Harriet Tubman was a 19th-century abolitionist and political activity who escaped slavery herself, then took part in rescues of hundreds of enslaved people.
In 2016, Obama decided Tubman should replace Andrew Jackson, who enslaved people, on the $20 bill. But Trump’s administration squashed the move. It seems now Biden will carry forth with Obama’s work.