The HRC called it the “most substantive, wide-ranging executive order” on LGBTQ+ rights ever signed by a U.S. president.
By Nico Lang
January 22, 2021
Joe Biden’s new administration began with a bang on Wednesday. Among the 17 executive orders signed on his first day in office, the 46th president issued an order instructing federal agencies to fully implement the Supreme Court’s historic June 2020 ruling on discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the workplace. In Bostock v. Clayton County, the nation’s highest court found in a decisive 6-3 ruling that queer and transgender employees are protected from workplace bias under 1964 civil rights laws banning sex-based discrimination.
But while the order would appear to merely reaffirm what was already the law of the land, the directive’s implications are far more expansive in their scope. Shortly after news broke that Biden had signed the order, the Human Rights Campaign called it the “most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president.”
What makes the order so unprecedented, according to Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer Sharon McGowan, is that it doesn’t merely apply to workplace settings. In a phone call with them., McGowan claimed that the president’s statement signaled that the new administration intends to apply the Supreme Court’s analysis to “all federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination,” including statutes concerning areas like education, housing, and health care.
“This is exactly the kind of clear statement that we hoped to get from the Biden administration,” she said. “And that absolutely is the right approach, because there’s nothing about the Supreme Court’s explanation for why sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination as an aspect of sex discrimination should be limited just to the employment context.”
The text of the order specifies that the Biden White House believes that the Supreme Court’s ruling extends to laws like the Fair Housing Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Immigration and Nationality Act. As a practical matter, that declaration would guarantee equal access for trans students who request to use the bathroom that most closely corresponds with their gender identity at school, people with HIV seeking affirming health care, and homeless trans people who wish to be housed in alignment with their gender at federally funded shelters.
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