In 2012, as vice president, Joe Biden was kind to many LGBTQ Americans by approving same-sex marriage even before his boss, President Barack Obama.
Now, as President-elect, Biden is making comprehensive promises to LGBTQ activists and recommending that virtually all major proposals be fulfilled on their wish list. Among them: the lifting of the Trump government’s almost complete ban on military service for transgender people, the exclusion of federal contractors from discrimination against LGBTQ in the workplace, and the establishment of high-level LGBTQ rights in the State Department, the National Security Council, and other federal agencies.
The measures in many cases reverse the executive measures of President Donald Trump, whose administration has taken a number of steps to weaken the protection of transgender people and allowed more leeway for discrimination against LGBTQs, which appears to be based on religion.
In his policy document, the Biden campaign said Vice President Trump and Mike Pence “incited hatred against LGBTQ + people’s safe harbor and set aside critical protection”.
In addition to unilaterally enforceable enforcement measures, Biden said the top legislative priority on LGBTQ issues is the Equality Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives last year but stalled in the Senate. All 50 states would already have comprehensive anti-bias protection for LGBTQs in 21 mainly democratically governed states, covering sectors such as housing, accommodation and public services.
Biden says he wants the law to become legal within 100 days of taking office, but his future remains uncertain. Assuming the bill will be passed in the House again, it would need the support of several Senate Republicans, even if Democrats gain control of Georgia by winning two drain races. For now, Susan Collins (Maine) is the only GOP sponsor in the Senate.
Critics, including prominent religious conservatives, say the bill raises concerns about religious freedom and may require some faith-based organizations to act against their faith.
The Equality Act is a “dangerous game changer” in the potential federal threat to religious freedom, said Reverend Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Last year, Utah Republican Chris Stewart tried to reach a compromise that would have extended LGBTQ rights nationwide while allowing exemptions for religious groups based on a belief that could have excluded LGBTQ people. His proposal won the support of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but was inundated by groups of liberal and civil rights.
“Anti-equality forces are trying to deprive individuals of their rights using the framework of religious freedom,” said Alphonso David, president of the human rights campaign, a national LGBTQ rights organization.
Among Biden’s unilateral actions would be the most notable lifting of Trump’s transgender military ban.
Jennifer Levi, a Massachusetts-based transgender rights lawyer, says it is clear that Biden has authority to do so after she takes office.
Nicolas Talbott, a transgender man represented by Levi in a lawsuit to overturn the ban, called it “a huge relief”.
“I look forward to re-enrolling in ROTC so that I can continue to train, remain fit for my service, and become an officer in the best possible Army,” Talbott said in an email.
Some other Biden promises:
– Designate a number of LGBTQs for federal government positions. There is widespread expectation that Biden will nominate an LGBTQ person to the cabinet, including Pete Buttigieg, a presidential candidate.
– Reverse Trump government policies that define religious exemptions, allowing discrimination against LGBTQ individuals by social service agencies, health care providers, adoption and foster care agencies, and other organizations.
– Restore Obama’s administrative guidelines that guide public schools to ensure that transgender students have access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams according to their gender identity. The Trump administration has revoked this instruction.
– Allocate federal resources to curb violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color. At least 38 transgender or gender-matched people were killed in the U.S. this year, according to advocacy organizations.
– Support legislative efforts to ban so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors.
– Federal efforts to collect comprehensive data on LGBTQs in the United States by including sexual orientation and gender identity issues in national surveys.
– Ensure that LGBTQ rights are a priority in US foreign policy and be prepared to apply pressure tactics, including sanctions, against foreign governments that violate these rights.
Whatever happens in Washington, some activists fear that state laws controlled by Republicans could put pressure on anti-LGBTQ accounts, such as restricting transgender youth access to certain medical treatments or participation in school sports. They are also concerned that the influx of conservative federal judges appointed by Trump could lead to decisions allowing for religious exemptions.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court – now with a solid conservative majority – listened to arguments as to whether a Philadelphia Catholic social service agency should be able to reject same-sex couples who want to be foster parents while still receiving local support for local authorities.
Tim Schultz, an advocate of religious freedom, outlined two possible avenues for a debate on the Equal Opportunities Act: “ongoing legislative barriers, regulatory trench warfare and judicial decisions that take place independently of the president’s actions,” or Biden’s active involvement in a new bipartisan strategy. you can get support in the Senate.
The first path would be only “temporary satisfaction,” given that regulatory action could be revoked by future presidents, said Schultz, president of the nonprofit’s 1st Amendment Partnership.
Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, cited Biden’s calls for unity – and his commitment to credit – as a positive sign that they will be more committed to the issue next year.
“He and his team will be in a very good position to mediate compromises if they want to be able to do that,” said Diament, who advised both the Trump and Obama administrations.
Associated Press religious reporting receives support from Lilly Endowment through the Religious News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for the content.