6 crucial ways Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would revolutionise LGBT+ rights and undo the damage of Trump

Emma Powys Maurice
·5-min read

LGBT+ rights have taken a battering under four years of Donald Trump, but Joe Biden could change that.

The Democratic presidential candidate has been refreshingly unambiguous in his support for the LGBT+ community, with advocates describing him and his running mate Kamala Harris as the “most pro-equality ticket in history”.

Undoing the damage of Trump’s presidency could take decades but Biden has promised to take action from day one. As he laid out his LGBT+ agenda in an exclusive interview with the Philadelphia Gay News last week, there was a lot to be excited about.

1. Joe Biden would introduce the Equality Act within his first 100 days.

Joe Biden will begin with the Equality Act, which he’s repeatedly pledged to sign within his first 100 days as president.

This landmark legislation would would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system.

“This is essential to ensuring that no future president can ever again roll back civil rights and protections for LGBT+ individuals, including when it comes to housing,” he said.

The Equality Act was passed by the Democratic-led House of Representatives in 2019 but stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, with the Trump administration labelling the legislation a “poison pill” that would supposedly “undermine parental and conscience rights”.

If the Democrats win the Senate and retain control of the House, the Act will finally be passed and signed, ensuring consistent LGBT+ protections and putting a stop to Trump’s bid to legalise discrimination.

2. LGBT+ representation.

The Obama-Biden administration appointed more than 250 openly LGBT+ professionals to full-time and advisory positions in the executive branch, more than any other presidential administration combined.

Joe Biden intends to continue this record and ensure that his administration “will look like our country”.

“Our federal agencies will be champions of equality and I’ll nominate and appoint federal officials and judges that represent the diversity of America, including LGBTQ+ individuals,” he promised.

He’s already off to a good start – this year there are over 500 openly LGBT+ candidates on the ballot, and the vast majority are Democrats.

3. Supporting queer veterans.

Joe Biden’s manifesto promises to address the unique needs of LGBT+ veterans, who can face increased homelessness, health risks and challenges in accessing quality health care.

As president he will direct the US Department of Veterans Affairs to establish cultural competency training protocols to ensure community care settings are equipped to support the needs of LGBT+ vets in the healthcare setting.

He’ll also instruct the secretary of defence to review the cases of veterans who were discharged due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, giving them the opportunity to have these records updated.

Crucially, this could enable those who were dishonourably discharged to access the benefits and services they rightfully deserve.

4. Joe Biden would make trans lives easier and safer.

In stark contrast to Donald Trump, Joe Biden has been outspoken in their support of trans people. At the Philadelphia town hall last month he proudly told the mother of a trans child that he would “flat out change the law” to reverse Trump’s hateful transphobia, including his ban on trans people serving in the military, his weakening of non-discrimination protections, and his removal of the word transgender from government websites.

He also acknowledged the epidemic of violence against trans women of colour, and has promised to combat this crisis when he becomes president.

“These deaths don’t exist within a vacuum,” he told the Philadelphia Gay News. “Dehumanising government actions and rhetoric as well as a failure to address risk factors like domestic and intimate partner violence, underemployment and unemployment and poverty, housing insecurity and health disparities, put this community at risk.”

To that end, he plans to direct federal resources to help prevent violence against trans women, particularly trans women of colour. He’ll support a ban on the gay and trans “panic” defence and increase LGBT+ bias trainings for law enforcement officers.

He’s also pledged to make it easier for trans people to update their government-issued IDs, including obtaining gender-neutral passports, and said he will back reforms that allow incarcerated trans people to change their legal names and gender identity on official documents.

5. Improving global LGBT+ equality.

The Trump administration has made little progress advancing LGBT+ rights around the world, with human rights experts describing the president’s much-vaulted campaign to decriminalise homosexuality as nothing but a “sham”. Overall, reporting on LGBT+ issues abroad is down by a shocking 21 per cent under Trump.

Joe Biden hopes to reverse Trump’s efforts and expand queer rights internationally by making equality a centrepiece of US diplomacy.

“It is our responsibility to advance human rights and development in our country and beyond our borders,” he said, citing his experience in advancing global LGBT+ rights as part of the Obama-Biden administration.

Biden has pledged to restore America’s global leadership on LGBT+ issues by leading lead a coalition of like-minded governments and organisations.

Together they will push the decriminalisation of LGBT+ identities and respond swiftly to threats, using America’s “full range of diplomatic tools” to influence government policies.

“I’ll stand up to bullies and once more put human rights at the centre of America’s engagement with the world,” Biden promised.

6. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will use ‘every tool available’.

Joe Biden’s extensive LGBT+ plan reveals an acute awareness of how the Trump administration has hurt LGBT+ people, and what needs to be done to address it.

“A Biden-Harris administration will consider every tool available to reverse Trump’s damaging policies and restore and advance critical protections, equality and equity for the LGBTQ+ community,” Reggie Greer, LGBTQ+ vote director for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to The 19th.

“When the history books are written, I am certain that advancing LGBTQ+ equality will be one of the Biden-Harris administration’s top achievements.”