Biden can begin quickly reversing Trump’s damaging impact on LGBTQ rights — with or without Congress

Chris Riotta
·4-min read
<p>President Donald Trump rolled back a multitude of protections for transgender Americans and others over the last four years while attempting to court LGBTQ voters.</p> (Getty Images)

President Donald Trump rolled back a multitude of protections for transgender Americans and others over the last four years while attempting to court LGBTQ voters.

(Getty Images)

If President-elect Joe Biden wants to overturn his predecessor’s painful record of attacks against the LGBTQ community, he doesn’t have to wait for Congress.

The incoming White House administration can implement a series of immediate actions to reverse President Donald Trump’s policies targeting LGBTQ people in all corners of American life, from the military and social services, to accessing health care and other critical resources.

Mr Biden pledged along the campaign trail to undo Mr Trump’s ban on transgender people from serving in the military in a statement on the anniversary of the repeal of the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“As president, I will direct the department of defense to allow transgender service members to serve openly, receive needed medical treatment, and be free from discrimination," he said at the time.

A simple executive order could quickly reverse that policy, once again allowing transgender Americans to join and serve openly in the US military, according to the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California dedicated to promoting the study of LGBTQ people in the armed forces.

Under Mr Trump, transgender service members must serve under the sex they were assigned at birth.

The center found in a July research paper that “there will be no need to redevelop guidance” when overturning the policy, and said retraining programmes also would not be needed to swiftly allow for transgender service members as “everything needed already exists in current military guidance.”

Mr Biden could reverse other rollbacks of protections for LGBTQ Americans on his first day in office, reinstating rules at the Department of Housing and Urban Development which protected transgender people from housing discrimination.

He could also eliminate the new rule finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services under Mr Trump that effectively erased all sorts of protections from health care discrimination for transgender Americans.

His administration could reinstate former President Barack Obama’s protections for transgender students, which allowed them to use bathrooms based on their gender identity before it was rescinded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The incoming Biden administration would be able to revise the US Bureau of Prisons’ Transgender Offender Manual — published under Mr Trump in 2018 — to no longer require transgender inmates to be housed based on their biological sex.

Mr Biden has consistently expressed his strong support for the Equality Act, which has already passed in the House of Representatives and would provide many of the protections to LGBTQ Americans that civil rights groups have long said should be implemented at a national level.

“I will make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during my first 100 days,” Mr Biden said after becoming the Democratic nominee, adding the bill was a “priority that Donald Trump opposes.”

He also vowed to make LGBTQ rights a part of America’s international advocacy efforts, saying he’d use the nation’s “full range of diplomatic tools” and “once more put human rights at the center of America’s engagement with the world.”

But the bill remains stalled in the Senate, and features only one Republican co-sponsor in Maine Senator Susan Collins.

With the Georgia run-off elections set to determine the balance of Congress in January, it remains unclear whether a President Biden could effectively make the Equality Act the law of the land in the event of a divided government.

If Mr Biden wants to score big victories for LGBTQ rights early on in his administration, he could easily do so with several executive orders designed to undo Mr Trump’s array of policies providing so-called “religious exemptions” for things like adoption and foster care services across government agencies.

The impact would be swift and staggering; the new administration’s orders could immediately prevent federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ Americans and restore protections for transgender people across the public and private sector.

With just over 50 days left before Mr Biden is sworn in as the next president of the United States, civil rights groups, his supporters and the nation at large are all waiting to see how — and if — he will live up to the campaign promises he made along the way.

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