In his first State of the Union Address, marking his first 100 days in office, President Biden firmly established himself as ally to LGBTQ+ Americans boldly saying “To all transgender Americans watching at home, especially young people who are so brave: I want you to know the President has your back” Minutes later, he spoke directly to Congress telling them, “get to my desk the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ Americans.”
The support from the Biden Administration can not have come at a better time as there have been a flurry of attacks against transgender youth in state legislatures.
The Equality Act would prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs. Additionally, it would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit using the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a defense in cases of discrimination, including protections on the basis of sex in public accommodations and federal programs and expand the definition of public accommodations to include retail stores, banks, transportation services and health care services for all protected categories, including race and national origin.
The Equality Act was passed in the House of Representatives on February 25th, but with 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate – including 10 Republicans – passage seems unlikely.
The primary complaint against the Equality Act is that it fails to grapple with legitimate concerns about religious freedom. Fair-minded Republicans and Democrats worry that the Equality Act threatens the tax-exempt status and faith standards of religious schools. They’re concerned the act would disqualify mosques and synagogues from partnering with the Department of Homeland Security to guard themselves against violent extremists. They’re concerned the act could dismantle social services across America, because they are provided by religious groups who view marriage as strictly a heterosexual institution. To name just one example: Catholic-affiliated providers are the biggest charitable presence on the U.S. southern border, serving countless gay and transgender migrants, asylees, and refugees.
Biden has fallen short of his pledge to sign the Equality Act into law in his first 100 days of office. However, Biden has had a historic first 100 days in office appointing at least 200 known LGBT people to his Administration. This number dwarfs the number appointed in any previous administrations. Two of those are groundbreaking appointees Pete Buttigieg, the first out LGBTQ Senate-confirmed Cabinet member, and Dr. Rachel Levine, the first out Senate-confirmed trans appointee. Buttigieg serves as Secretary of Transportation and Dr. Levine as Assistant Secretary for Health.
Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute says,
“President Biden’s administration is already the most LGBTQ-inclusive in history and his appointees have shattered long-standing political barriers thought unthinkable not long ago. These appointees make an incalculable impact every day, drafting policies within agencies, advising on legislation and debating critical issues at the highest levels. With the thousands of appointments yet to be made, we will continue to work with the administration to not only ensure our community is equitably represented, but that trans and non-binary people, LGBTQ people of color and LGBTQ women are fully represented as well.”
Three of the Presidents five Appointments Initiatives goals remain:
- Appoint out LGBTQ women ambassadors, LGBTQ ambassadors of color, and transgender ambassadors for the first time,
- Nominate an out LGBTQ U.S. Supreme Court justice for the first time,
- Ensure equitable representation among presidential appointees throughout this presidency and ensure they reflect the full diversity of the LGBTQ community.
Will Biden’s push for the Equality Act during his speech last night breathe new life into getting it passed? That remains to be seen, but speaking as an LGBTQ American I for one am proud that Joe Biden is my President and grateful that he, right now, seems to be fighting for us and for our Equality.