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LGBTQ+ Progress Under Biden Major But Incomplete, Says New Report

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In President Joe Biden’s first year in office, there’s been substantial progress for LGBTQ+ Americans — but more needs to be done, says a new report from Lambda Legal.

“When President Biden took office, he faced a tall task to reverse four years of damage done by the Trump administration, which actively took aim at the LGBTQ+ community, as it did with respect to Black, brown, immigrant, and other communities, whenever it could,” Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer and legal director of Lambda Legal, said in a press release announcing the report. “Our analysis shows that while the Biden administration has made progress putting our country back on the right track, we are nowhere close to where we need to be. They should use this report, and the unfulfilled priorities we have identified in it, as a guidepost for the direction our country should be headed over the coming months.”

Biden and his administration “have done tremendous work” in some areas, Sasha Buchert, a senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal, told The Advocate in a follow-up interview. These include implementing the Supreme Court’s 2020 Bostock ruling, which found anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination violated federal law, across all areas of the federal government, and repairing the damage Trump did to federal courts with his appointments of far-right judges. But there is still much more the administration needs to do to in the name of LGBTQ+ equality, she said.

The report follows up on 10 key asks the organization made of Biden when he took office. On repairing damage to the courts, it notes that Biden has worked with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to get more federal judges confirmed in his first year than any president since Ronald Reagan, a total of 40. They are a diverse group, 32 of them being women, 27 people of color, and 21 women of color, and they include the first out judge confirmed to a federal circuit court.

But LGBTQ+ people remain underrepresented among the federal judiciary, and the administration should focus on finding such appointees, including bisexual, transgender, and nonbinary judges, Lambda recommends.

The administration also should take further action to assure that organizations receiving federal grants to provide health care, child welfare services, and other social programs do not discriminate, the report continues. Biden withdrew a Trump policy giving grantees broad exemptions from antidiscrimination regulations, but the administration needs to step up enforcement of these regulations and eliminate the so-called conscience protection division Trump set up in the Department of Health and Human Services, according to Lambda.

The report additionally calls on the administration to work hard to pass the Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination nationwide in numerous aspects of life. Biden has called the act a priority, but it has stalled in Congress.

Lambda praises Biden for lifting Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military but urges him to champion legislation that would prevent future presidents from reinstating such a policy. Biden should direct the Department of Defense to end discrimination against service members with HIV as well, the report adds.

The report notes that transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming youth still face many difficulties, and the administration has taken positive steps to address this problem, such as filing legal documents supporting young people who’ve sued over discrimination. “We would just love to see a more staunch defense of trans and nonconforming kids,” Buchert said, while giving the administration “credit where credit’s due” over the support it has provided.

On issues of race and immigration, Lambda lauds Biden for lifting racist executive orders put in place by Trump but also calls on him to do more to stop racist behavior by immigration agents, end the separation of immigrant families, and protect LGBTQ+ refugees.

It ends by outlining five priorities for the second year of the administration:  protect voting rights; protect Black trans women, who are disproportionately victims of violence and discrimination; protect the constitutional rights of trans people in federal custody; collect data on LGBTQ+ people and those with HIV in order to address inequities; and update HIV-related policies, such as the restrictions on blood donation by gay and bisexual men, to reflect science and reject stigma.

“President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris promised to use their office to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed,” Kristine Kippins, deputy legal director for policy at Lambda Legal, concluded in the press release. “While many important steps have been taken, our assessment after year one is that this administration’s homework must be rated as ‘incomplete.’  Particularly with LGBTQ+ people, especially Black transgender women and transgender youth, facing increased harassment, violence, and discrimination across our country, we hope the Biden-Harris administration will act with the urgency that the situation demands, and take bold action to tackle the immense challenges we face to build a more perfect union.”

The full report is available at LambdaLegal.org.

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