December 23, 2020
A change of administration ushering in the pro-equality leadership of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris promises much hope for the LGBTQ community. As we go to press, whether we will also have a pro-equality Senate remains a question. But no matter the outcome, the Biden-Harris administration can take steps through executive action to repair much of the damage of the past four years. GLAD is already working with our partners to ensure the new administration uses every tool it has to put the country back on track towards equal justice.
We expect President-elect Biden will carry through on his campaign promise to lift the transgender military ban within the first few days of his inauguration. GLAD challenged the ban almost immediately upon its announcement and will not rest until it’s gone.
In addition to its vicious attack on courageous transgender service members, the Trump administration has relentlessly and systematically reversed protections and launched new initiatives to make already vulnerable people even more so. One of the first attacks came from the Department of Education.
Within weeks of Trump’s inauguration. the Department of Education withdrew key guidance the Obama administration had issued to schools across the country to ensure full inclusion of transgender students. Since then, the hostility has only escalated. Most recently, the Department threatened to deny federal funding for school districts with trans-inclusive policies, staking out the extreme position that inclusive policies are in conflict with Title IX, the federal civil rights law requiring equal educational opportunities without regard to sex. The new administration can get Education moving in the right direction again, to make it more possible for LGBTQ young people to thrive.
We also hope the Biden-Harris administration will repair federal prison policy. The Trump administration reversed Obama-era guidance that made placements for transgender people based solely on assigned birth sex unlawful, a complete about-face on sound policy that puts incarcerated transgender people at heightened risk of assault and sexual violence.
Health care policy is also of immediate concern, all the more so because of the ongoing pandemic. Just this June – with astounding cruelty on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting – the Trump administration reversed a federal rule that clarified the Affordable Care Act’s non-discrimination provision prohibits denial of health care services to transgender people. GLAD is challenging that reversal in its case on behalf of hospice nurse Alexander Pangborn (Pangborn v. Ascend) as are several other national LGBTQ organizations in federal court cases proceeding across the country. As that litigation moves forward, the incoming administration can also take steps to reinstate crucial healthcare protections.
GLAD is also keeping an eagle eye out for other damaging rules the Trump administration may seek to finalize before its departure, including in the areas of asylum and housing access for transgender people. The Department of Homeland Security has threatened to gut asylum rules, with the potential for devastating consequences for refugees, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development has proposed an alarming rule that would allow homeless shelters to turn transgender people away. GLAD has worked for decades across New England to ensure transgender people are treated with dignity and respect when accessing essential services, including shelter. As winter sets in, we are working with partner organizations to ensure LGBTQ people can secure existing protections and get the shelter they need. We also stand ready to challenge any effort to roll back protections at the federal level.
As welcome as it will be to once again have a President and Vice President who are committed to LGBTQ equality, our work is far from over come inauguration day. We will all need to work together to hold Biden and Harris to their promises, to press Congress to take action when necessary, including passing the Equality Act, and to move our state and local legislatures to advance justice for all Americans. GLAD is full steam ahead – in our policy work, in our ongoing litigation in both state and federal courts, and in community building. We need you to join our work to realize the promises and commitments made to the queer community.