Dalila Ali Rajah
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Biden Issues Wide-Ranging Executive Order Protecting LGBTQ+ Rights

President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden will issue an executive order today aimed at advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ people and fighting back against state legislative attacks.

The order, which comes on the same day the president is hosting a Pride Month reception at the White House, addresses health care, education, conversion therapy, homelessness, foster care, and more.

More than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, many of them aimed specifically at transgender youth, have been introduced in state legislatures this year, and more than 20 have become law. These include Alabama’s law criminalizing the provision of gender-affirming care to young people, which is temporarily blocked by a court. In Texas, there was not legislative action against such care, but Gov. Greg Abbott directed the state’s child welfare agency to investigate parents who allow their children access to this care, as he considers it child abuse (the probes are likewise temporarily halted by a court). Also, several of the laws passed in the past few years affect education, such as Florida’s “don’t say gay” legislation and numerous states’ restrictions on trans youth’s participation in school sports.

In response, Biden’s order advises states on how to take the opposite approach. It instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to release new sample policies for states on how to expand access to comprehensive health care for LGBTQ+ people, including gender-affirming care. Further, to address the high risk of suicide among LGBTQ+ youth, it directs HHS to expand young people’s access to suicide prevention resources and to issue new guidance through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration on providing evidence-informed mental health care for this population.

In addition, it directs the Department of Education to address the impact of laws affecting students and to prepare a sample school policy how to achieve inclusive education. The DOE will set up a Working Group on LGBTQI+ Students and Families, “which will advance policies for states, school districts, and other educational institutions to promote safe and inclusive learning environments in which all students thrive,” according to a White House fact sheet.

On conversion therapy, Biden is directing HHS to explore issuing guidance that will clarify that federally funded programs cannot offer the discredited and harmful practice. “HHS will also increase public awareness about its harms, provide training and technical assistance to health care providers, and expand support for services to help survivors,” the fact sheet says.

He is encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to consider whether conversion therapy constitutes an unfair or deceptive act or practice and whether to issue consumer warnings or notices. He is further directing the secretaries of State, Treasury, and HHS to develop an action plan to promote an end to the practice around the world and ensure that U.S. foreign assistance dollars do not fund it.

The order deals with a variety of other youth and family issues as well. It directs HHS to strengthen nondiscrimination protections in the foster care system. It further will “charge HHS with launching a new initiative to partner with state child welfare agencies to improve outcomes for LGBTQI+ youth in care; increase training for child welfare personnel on best practices for supporting LGBTQI+ youth; promote placements of children into environments that will support their sexual orientation and gender identity; and study and address the disproportionate rates of child removals that LGBTQI+ parents face, especially women of color,” according to the White House.

Biden is also directing HHS to expand access to voluntary family counseling and support programs and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with researching the impacts of family rejection on the mental health and long-term well-being of LGBTQ+ people. Another HHS project will be studying how current eligibility standards for federal programs affect LGBTQ+ households and issuing recommendations for more inclusive standards.

HHS is tasked with establishing a bill of rights for older LGBTQ+ Americans, provide guidance on avoiding discrimination in long-term care settings, and consider making a new rule assuring that LGBTQ+ people are included in the definition of populations facing “greatest social need” under the Older Americans Act.

To address homelessness and housing instability among LGBTQ+ Americans, the order calls on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to establish a working group to explore barriers to housing, seek ways to address these barriers, and provide technical assistance to housing providers.

Biden is also directing the U.S. attorney general to set up a new clearinghouse within the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to provide effective training, technical assistance, and other resources for jurisdictions to better serve LGBTQ+ youth in the juvenile justice system.

Lastly, the order establishes a new committee to coordinate data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity across agencies while safeguarding privacy.

The directive builds on policies the Biden administration has already put in place, White House officials said on a conference call with reporters this morning. These include Biden’s executive order on his first day in office implementing protections against discrimination across the federal government; rescinding the ban on transgender people serving in the military; appointing a special envoy to advance the rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world; and establishing a gender-neutral marker on federal identification documents.

The president remains committed to the passage of the Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination nationwide in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, and a variety of other aspects of life, the officials said. In response to one reporter’s question, they said “any assertion that he hasn’t been full-throated” in support of the act is wrong. The act has been approved by the House of Representatives but is stalled in the Senate, where Republicans are resisting it. The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats), but under the filibuster rule, it takes the support of 60 senators to end debate on most bills and move to a vote on the actual legislation.

The Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus commended Biden for the order, which aligns with the goals of the Equality Act and other legislation introduced by caucus members. 

“President Biden has been a deeply committed ally to the LGBTQI+ community in the White House, and today’s executive order is another example of President Biden’s strong commitment to advancing LGBTQI+ rights,” said U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, chair of the caucus. “At a time when radical right-wing politicians are pushing legislation targeting our community — and particularly transgender and nonbinary youth — President Biden is not just speaking out against these laws, he’s also taking critical actions to secure and protect our rights. Today’s executive order will have a significant impact on LGBTQI+ people of all ages, from LGBTQI+ youth, including those in the foster care system, to LGBTQI+ older adults.”

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