With only 70 days until inauguration, the Biden administration has already made history. The president-elect will be the first to fully support LGBTQ+ equality at the time he takes office, while Kamala Harris is set to be the first Black, Asian-American, and female vice president to ever serve in the White House.
While Biden unveiled a detailed plan to further LGBTQ+ rights during his campaign, one which includes passing the Equality Act in his first 100 days, questions still remain as the transition moves forward. For instance, what public health goals will the Biden administration set to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. and abroad? What kind of federal plan will the president-elect create to stop the epidemic of violence against transgender and gender-nonconforming people (TGNC), particularly Black trans women? How does Biden plan to protect LGBTQ+ youth who face harassment in schools?
To aid the incoming administration in answering these questions, a team of LGBTQ+ advocacy groups authored a brief advising the Biden team on how to begin restoring rollbacks of queer and trans rights under Trump on day one. Released on Thursday, the three-page policy memo was coordinated by the Center for American Progress, Equality Federation, GLSEN, Movement Advancement Project, National Center for Trans Equality, and SAGE.
Of the 10 proposals put forward in the brief, the first involves creating a federal plan to address the “rampant and increasing violence against transgender people,” with the focus on protecting Black trans women. At least 34 transgender and gender non-conforming Americans have been murdered this year alone, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which makes 2020 the deadliest year on record for the trans and non-binary community. Last month Biden recognized the ongoing epidemic of violence targeting the TGNC community in a statement posted to his website, in which he said the ongoing deaths were “unacceptable.”
LGBTQ+ groups also suggest establishing a “cross-agency task force” to address the violence against transgender people and oversee how law enforcement agencies respond to these brutal killings. Next, the organizations suggest improving data collection on hate crimes, given that many states do not report their hate crime numbers to the FBI, and furthering programs that provide economic security, trauma-informed care, and violence prevention tools to vulnerable communities.
The organization also suggests the Biden administration act quickly to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. One way to do so is by directing all federal agencies to fully enforce the Supreme Court’s June ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, in which justices ruled that laws banning sex-based discrimination also prohibit bias on the basis of LGBTQ+ identity.
Other recommendations include reversing the ban on military service by transgender people; releasing LGBTQ+ people held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including transgender asylum seekers and people living with HIV; providing better access to effective HIV care and treatment; and creating an LGBTQ+ equity advisory council. According to the brief, the latter would include “community members, members of the Domestic Policy Council, and senior-level staff at the Department of Health and Human Services, and other key partners,” with the goal to “identify key action steps and engage advocates.”
Several of these policy ideas have been discussed by Biden himself, who is believed to be likely to overturn Trump’s trans military ban during his first days in office. But many of the Biden administration’s wider goals — including a federal ban on conversion therapy, outlawing discrimination against same-sex couples in adoption and foster care, and allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood without undue discrimination — could be complicated if Republicans hold onto the Senate following a pair of January runoffs in Georgia.
As LGBTQ+ people await the outcome of those pivotal races, the Human Rights Campaign has also laid out its proposals for advancing equality under the Biden administration. In a 24-page document titled the “Blueprint for Positive Change 2020,” the organization offers an in-depth list of 85 recommendations targeted at improving the lives of LGBTQ+ people.
HRC’s proposals, which were unveiled on Wednesday, include creating an LGBTQ+-inclusive federal definition of bullying, expanding outreach to homeless LGBTQ+ veterans, and restoring “inclusive implementation” of the Equal Access Rule. That rule originally stipulated that all Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded services were to be provided without discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but the Trump administration gutted those protections, allowing shelters to deny access to vulnerable transgender people.
“These are steps that the Biden-Harris administration can take affirmatively and administratively to protect LGBTQ people and really not only put us back in positions that we were in before the Trump administration but advance us forward toward equality,” Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement to the LGBTQ+ outlet Washington Blade.
Since taking office in January 2017, the Trump administration has been responsible for 181 attacks on LGBTQ+ people, according to the nationwide nonprofit GLAAD. These actions include allowing hospitals and federally funded health centers to deny medical care to trans people, erasing LGBTQ+ people from government websites, rolling back data collection on LGBTQ+ identities, removing protections for trans students in schools, and changing the federal definition of gender to exclude transgender people.
Trump will have two more months to up that tally, as he is not set to leave office until January 20. He has, thus far, refused to recognize his election loss, continuing to cite unfounded allegations of voter fraud while challenging the results in court.