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As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden vowed to reverse a spate of anti-LGBTQ+ policies instituted by President Donald Trump and advance equality for the community. In the first 100 days, he has largely accomplished what he promised he’d do upon entering office.
But many advocates say the work on LGBTQ+ issues has only just begun, especially when it comes to addressing disparities facing the community’s most vulnerable. They also worry that actions taken by executive order can be just as quickly undone when a new administration comes in.
Catherine Lhamon, deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice & Equity at the White House, said that while the president “has been true to his word and to expectations about what he would do early” in his administration, officials agree there’s more to be done.
“What needs to be done is to make sure that people don’t experience violence,” she said. “So, until it ends, and it hasn’t ended, we have more work to do.”
Lhamon said that the president will continue to advocate against anti-transgender bias fueling state bills that would block trans kids from participating in athletics or from getting affirming medical care. She noted Biden had issued the first ever presidential proclamation on Transgender Day of Visiblity.
Still, she said, real policy work remains. The president wants to see Congress pass the Equality Act, landmark LGBTQ+ legislation that he vowed to sign in his first 100 days. The administration is actively working on issuing passports and other federal documents with gender markers that go beyond M and F for male and female to reflect nonbinary and intersex people.
The administration is aiming to have the Violence Against Women Act reinstated and acknowledges that serious work needs to be done to keep transgender people safe in prisons and jails, where the vast majority are housed by their sex assigned at birth and not their lived genders.
Finally, the administration is working on reinstating transgender health care protections that the Trump administration removed from the Affordable Care Act, she said.
Lhamon acknowledges that a patchwork of executive orders can feel temporary to LGBTQ+ Americans as administrations turn over.
“The thing that actually ensures lasting impact for all of us is voting and making sure that people get out and hold their elected officials to the ideals that we asked for them,” Lhamon said.
Here are the 100-day objectives around LGBTQ+ rights that Biden set out and his progress on them:
Sign the Equality Act into law: not done
In his campaign platform, Biden vowed to sign into law the Equality Act, landmark LGBTQ+ civil rights protections first introduced in 1974, within his first 100 days. But he can’t sign something that hasn’t passed Congress yet: While the Equality Act passed the House in February and the Senate Judicial Committee heard the bill in March, it still faces the steep hurdle of needing 60 votes to clear the Senate.
If passed, the Equality Act would update the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to create nationwide gender identity and sexual orientation nondiscrimination protections.
Combating violence against transgender women of color: progress made
The past four years have been the most deadly ever recorded for transgender people, and transgender women of color have faced the brunt of the violence. In 2020, 44 transgender people were murdered, setting a record. This year is already on track to double that number as the pandemic pushes more transgender people into poverty and state legislatures push a an unprecedented number of anti-trans bills.
Biden pledged that in his first 100 days, he would tackle the disparities that make transgender women of color particularly at risk of violence. Chief among them are unemployment and housing insecurity. On his first day in office, Biden issued an executive order enforcing the Supreme Court’s June 2020 ruling that bars employment discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. Earlier this month, Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge announced that the administration was rolling back Trump-era guidance that allowed federally funded homeless shelters to turn away transgender clients.
Reversing the transgender military ban: done
As a candidate, Biden promised to reverse on his first day in office former President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. While he didn’t reverse the ban on day one, he did make good on that promise within his first week.
An estimated 13,763 transgender service members faced dismissal under the 2019 ban, according to LGBTQ+ military organization the Palm Center. Advocates say that lifting the ban will likely restore thousands of jobs for transgender Americans and end the practice of forcing transgender service members to choose between the military and gender-affirming medical care.
Guaranteeing trans students have access to facilities based on their gender identity: progress made
One of Trump’s first moves as president in 2017 was repealing Obama-era guidance that protected transgender students in school bathrooms and locker rooms. Biden issued an executive order March 8 reinstating protections for transgender students.
Prioritizing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act: not done
Reintroduced this spring, the Violence Against Women Act would provide support to LGBTQ+ survivors of intimate partner violence due to an amendment introduced by Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Marie Newman.
Advocates say the bill is particularly important for LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic violence as transgender women of color face high rates of violence and queer people in general are often left out of conversations about dating violence.
Issuing a memo for LGBTQ+ rights worldwide: done
In February, Biden made good on a promise to issue a memo on the United States’ commitment to protecting LGBTQ+ rights globally after advocates accused the Trump administration of shirking its duties to protect queer people abroad.
However, LGBTQ+ immigration advocates have said the president hasn’t lived up to that commitment at home because the administration continues to detain transgender immigrants seeking asylum amid allegations of abuse in custody.
“The Biden administration could easily put an end to the detention of trans people and the abuse they face in ICE custody but instead, it continues to choose to do nothing to protect our people,” said Emilio Vicente, communications and policy director of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement.