As President Joe Biden and Vice President Harris begin their second year in office, today GLAAD marks the 100th entry in the GLAAD Biden Accountability Tracker, an ongoing resource for journalists and voters to see how the Biden Administration is keeping to its promises to the LGBTQ community.
The Tracker details appointments, policies and statements across the administration over the course of their first year in office.
The results so far are striking: 100+ moves to invite, include, protect, support and celebrate LGBTQ Americans, and expand policies to further equality, equity and access. From the first hours after inauguration with the updated White House website asking for people’s pronouns, to moves at home and abroad including Vice President Harris’ recognition of LGBTQ discrimination as a driving force in Central American migration, the Biden presidency has offered historic support for LGBTQ people.
“President Biden and his administration have opened doors for LGBTQ Americans and demonstrated unprecedented commitment to ending discrimination and urging full equality in every area of society,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
“It’s a 180 degree turnaround from the previous administration’s more than 200 attacks on LGBTQ Americans,” Ellis continued. “In appointing out leaders, in creating and implementing policies to advance equity, in verbal and visual statements of support, the Biden administration is including, celebrating and demanding 100% acceptance for all LGBTQ people.”
The 100th entry is significant as it represents the stated commitment of the Biden administration to diversify the federal bench and ensure marginalized voices are represented and protected. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Holly Thomas to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Thomas will become only the second female Black judge in the court’s history. As special counsel to the New York Solicitor General in 2015, Thomas filed an amicus brief in federal court challenging North Carolina’s since-overturned law banning transgender and nonbinary people from using the restroom aligned with their gender identity.
Three out lesbians are among President Biden’s first-year judicial appointees; Judge Beth Robinson is the first out lesbian to serve on any federal circuit court. The White House notes that among its 83 first-year judicial nominations, 80% of those confirmed so far are women, with 53% being people of color.
The Biden Accountability Tracker also details out appointees serving in leadership roles, such as the first out Cabinet member confirmed by the Senate, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; the first out transgender person confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Health and first female four-star admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Dr. Rachel Levine; the highest-ranking out transgender person to serve in the Defense Department, Shawn Skelly; the first out lesbian and first woman of color to serve as Under Secretary of a military branch, Gina Ortiz Jones; the first out commissioner of the largest federal law enforcement agency, Customs and Border Protection, Chris Magnus.
President Biden’s appointment of LGBTQ people has been met with policy specifics taken to restore protections rolled back by the previous president, and offer new protections including U.S. passports issued with a gender-neutral ‘X’ marker, an option to be offered to all routine passport applicants in early 2022; reinstatement of transgender military personnel; the first policies to include full transition benefits to trans military veterans; and policy changes to reconsider benefits eligibility offered to LGBTQ veterans forced from service under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Federal agencies such as Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development have restored protections and expanded coverage for transgender people seeking healthcare and housing.
What’s missing from the Biden Administration’s first year in office is delivering on the promise to sign The Equality Act into law, though that is a consequence of the deadlocked Senate, not the President. While President Biden has repeatedly spoken up to support the Equality Act and urge Congress to pass it, so far only the House has been able to advance the legislation.
The Equality Act, which would provide comprehensive protections against discrimination for every LGBTQ American, and expand protections for women, people of faith and people of color, awaits action in the Senate. Efforts there have so far failed to reform the filibuster, an arcane rule that blocks the Senate from taking a vote on legislation vast majorities of Americans support including voting rights, LGBTQ protections, gun safety and reproductive justice. (GLAAD has spoken up to repeal and reform the filibuster, and to criticize senators who have jeopardized their state’s most vulnerable citizens by refusing to join the effort to reform it.)
“The President isn’t the problem here,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis told The 19th. “The inaction of the Senate is, and LGBTQ people and our allies should be flooding their Senators’ phones and emails to demand they pass this critical piece of legislation.”
“Every member of Congress must follow President Biden’s lead and secure protections against discrimination into law by passing the Equality Act,” Ellis said. “Every state and local leader must speak up for their LGBTQ neighbors and pass laws to secure their right to live in safety and contribute fully to their states’ success.”
President Biden has also been challenged to do more on behalf of transgender students targeted in an precedented wave of discriminatory legislation at the state level. President Biden has spoken up to support trans youth, including a first-ever message to trans people in a presidential address to Congress, and the Departments of Justice and Education filed a statement of interest to protect transgender students from discrimination and department leaders issue public statements and videos to defend students and teachers and encourage them to report acts of bias based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice Kristen Clarke delivered a back to school message for LGBTQ students: “In some places, people in positions of authority are putting up obstacles that would keep you from playing on a sports field, accessing the bathroom, and receiving the supportive and lifesaving care you may need. We’re here to say that’s wrong and it’s against the law.”
GLAAD also notes the comprehensive strategy created by the Biden White House and announced on World AIDS Day to end HIV by 2030. The strategy prioritizes reforms to outdated laws criminalizing HIV status (as recently signed into law in New Jersey) and adds $267 million in funding to improve access to treatment, use of PrEP to prevent HIV and ensure access to services free from stigma and discrimination.
As the Red Cross announced a national blood supply crisis, with the most severe blood shortage in over a decade, GLAAD urges the Biden administration to fully repeal the discriminatory deferral period and screening process keeping eligible gay and bisexual men from donating blood. In 2015, the Obama-Biden administration reduced the lifetime ban on LGBTQ donors to one year; in 2020, with GLAAD and hundreds of medical professionals’ advocacy, the one year deferral period was reduced again to three months. All blood is screened for HIV and other STI’s, and all donors should be screened for behavior, not rejected based on sexual orientation.
This week the Biden White House told ABC News that it agrees the policy should be based on science: “The legacy of bans on blood donation continues to be painful, especially for LGBTQI+ communities. The President is committed to ensuring that this policy is based on science, not fiction or stigma.”
GLAAD urges the White House to demand accountability from the FDA-led “Advance” study to ensure participation from all relevant parties, educate Americans about HIV stigma, and deliver timely results to move toward full repeal of this discriminatory screening process that’s harming all Americans and public health.
You can sign our petition to the FDA here. More than 25,000 people have signed on since GLAAD launched the petition in 2020 and re-upped it last week after the Red Cross announcement.
In his nearly two-hour press conference this week marking his first year in office, President Biden committed to informing midterm election voters: “I have to make clear to the American people what we are for.”
GLAAD will continue to monitor and document the President’s commitments and actions for LGBTQ people. GLAAD calls on voters to demand all elected officials commit to doing more to keep our country moving forward.