Respect Equality

LGBTQ+ equality groups celebrate Biden executive order, but say there’s more work to be done

The president’s order to advance LGBTQ+ equality comes as more than 300 bills that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people have been introduced in state legislatures across the country.

Story at a glance

  • LGBTQ+ advocates applauded an executive order signed by President Biden Tuesday to advance LGBTQ+ equality, but they admitted that the action is only a step in the right direction.

  • The executive order addresses a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation introduced this year in state legislatures and introduces new protections for LGBTQ+ inclusive health care, education and housing.

  • The order also charges the Department of Health and Human Services with promoting expanded access to gender-affirming care, which has been under debate in more than a dozen states this year.

LGBTQ+ equality groups on Tuesday celebrated an executive order signed by President Biden that addresses recent state legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and introduces new safeguards for inclusive health care and housing.

“This historic executive order will advance long-sought, LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices that will help save young LGBTQ lives,” Amit Paley, the CEO and executive director of the LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention group The Trevor Project, said Tuesday in a statement.

“It’s past time that we put an end to the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion ‘therapy,’ and expand access to the affirming care LGBTQ young people actually need to survive and thrive,” Paley said, referring to one of the provisions in the executive order that charges the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with reducing the risk of youth exposure to the discredited practice, which aims to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Biden in the order also encourages the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to consider whether so-called “conversion therapy” constitutes an “unfair or deceptive act or practice” that consumers should be warned or notified about. The order also charges the Secretaries of State, Treasury and HHS with developing a plan of action to promote an end to the practice around the world to ensure that it does not benefit from U.S. foreign assistance dollars.

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The order also directs HHS to issue guidance for states to expand access to “affordable, comprehensive health care” for LGBTQ+ patients, according to a White House fact sheet, and explicitly charges the department with promoting “expanded access to gender-affirming care” at a time when more than a dozen states have introduced legislation to restrict it, particularly for transgender and nonbinary youth.

“Given the historic number of state legislative attacks on LGBTQI+ people, specifically LGBTQI+ youth and families, it’s critical that action is taken at the federal level to protect vulnerable children and parents,” Kristine Kippins, deputy legal director for policy at the law firm Lambda Legal, said Tuesday.

Kippins said the order represents a step in the right direction but cautioned that the president’s action is just “a beginning.”

“There is still much work to be done in advancing rights for LGBTQI+ people in this country,” she said. Others expressed a similar view.

“This is an AMAZING start…but this language is very loose for an executive order [in my opinion],” actress Angelica Ross tweeted Tuesday shortly after the order was announced.

Ross has been critical of prior pledges made by Biden and his administration to advance LGBTQ+ rights and in a March message directed at the president said, “Talk is cheap. We need you to act.”

Biden’s executive order also directs the Department of Education to release a sample school policy that is inclusive of LGBTQ+ students — a direct rebuttal to legislation in states like Florida and Alabama, where public school educators have been barred from addressing sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom.

Older LGBTQ+ Americans will also benefit from the executive order, which directs HHS to publish a “Bill of Rights for LGBTQI+ Older Adults” and release new guidance on nondiscrimination protections for older adults in long-term care settings.

The order also introduces new efforts to address LGBTQ+ homelessness and housing instability and better service LGBTQ+ youth in the juvenile justice and foster care systems.

“After decades of demanding change and falling through the cracks in both racial justice and LGBTQ+ liberation groups, the federal government is finally doing something to systematically ensure equity for all parts of us,” Victoria Kirby York, deputy director of the National Black Justice Coalition, a Black LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, said Tuesday in a statement.

Kirby added that she will be watching the administration for further action on Title IX and the protection of LGBTQ+ students from discrimination, federal investigations into still-unsolved fatal hate crime cases that have victimized Black transgender people, as well as the safe return of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia for more than three months.