In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives under Democratic leadership passed landmark LGBTQ rights legislation that would go on to become one of the hundreds (yes, hundreds, here’s a full list courtesy of Daily Kos’ Meteor Blades) of bills blocked by Senate Republicans. Because the Equality Act was DOA solely due to the do-nothing majority (polling finds Americans favor new LGBTQ rights laws), a new Democratic administration and Democratic-controlled Congress give advocates a new hope for advancing LGBTQ equality, Eugene Scott writes for The Washington Post.
Scott lists the passage of the Equality Act as one of the biggest pushes by advocates in the new administration. Passed by the House in 2019, the legislation “would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding through contracts or assistance, financial credit, and the jury system,” Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter wrote in 2019. She notes dozens of states still lack protections for LGBTQ Americans.
Scott writes that HIV/AIDS, especially as its affects Black men who have sex with men, is another area where the Biden administration can make significant policy change. “While it’s not a disease exclusive to the LGBT community,” he writes, “Black gay and bisexual men accounted for one in four new diagnoses [in 2018].”
But like in the current novel coronavirus pandemic, the previous administration had no comprehensive plan in place to address this crisis, leading to a dozen members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS quitting in protest in mid-2017. ”[T]heir largest expressed gripe was that the Trump administration has not sought input from the council when formulating HIV policy,” NBC News reported at the time. By the end of the year, the previous president fired the remaining members.
Biden’s campaign platform pledged to update and implement the Obama-Biden administration’s comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which “will aggressively reduce new HIV cases, while increasing access to treatment and eliminating inequitable access to services and supports. In addition, Biden will fully fund the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which provides services to individuals with HIV/AIDS, and will increase federal funding for HIV/AIDS research and support increased funding for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program.”
Some changes have already happened, like Biden quickly reversing the previous administration’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the U.S. military, and his reversal of 11th-hour, anti-LGBTQ policy thrown into place by the previous administration. Yet the fact that the previous administration had dared to call itself pro-LGBTQ would be laughable, if it weren’t so horrific.
In just one example last fall, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ignored internal protests from his own department employees in order to address a right-wing religious organization that supports so-called “ex-gay” therapy, the Miami Herald said.
Scott notes that other changes advocates would like to see are also already happening, like increased LGBTQ representation in politics. Last week, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg became the first openly-gay, Senate-confirmed member of a president’s cabinet (Richard Grenell, an unqualified political appointee for the previous administration, had a cow over that). Dr. Rachel Levine, nominated by Biden to be assistant secretary of health and human services, “could become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate,” Scott wrote.
“Our position is if we put the right people in the right places, they will do the right things,” Victory Institute president Annise Parker told Scott. “Decisions about LGBTQ lives and health and livelihood are better made when we’re part of the conversation, when we’re not being talked about but when we’re being talked with.”
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