On January 20th, 2021, President-Elect Joe Biden became the President of the United States, assuming the role that former President Donald Trump inhabited for 4 years. In the weeks since then, President Biden has used dozens of executive orders (published directives that attempt to manage the government sans congress) and other actions like presidential memorandums (like executive orders, except these are not required to be published) to reverse the previous administration’s policy positions. This has completely switched federal gears on several parts of federal policy, including LGBTQI policy. Via Aishvarya Kavi of the New York Times, on President Biden’s first day in office he signed 17 executive orders, one of which “reinforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to require that the federal government does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, a policy that reverses action by Mr. Trump’s administration.” This, however, has not stopped on the domestic level. Another rebuke of Trump era policies has been the Biden administration’s focus on LGBTQI issues globally as well, leading to a new Presidential Memorandum on LGBTQI rights around the world.
Signed on the 4th of February, this Presidential Memorandum continues the trend of reversing Trump era policies and reinforcing or reinstating Obama era policies. Via the intro to the memo by President Biden himself, the “Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World… reaffirms and supplements the principles established in the residential Memorandum of December 6, 2011.” The memo is a continuation and extension of the Obama era memo, with President Biden writing that it “builds upon that historic legacy.” The core of the memo focuses on directing agencies that are “engaged abroad” in promoting LGBTQI rights internationally, with the directive highlighting several areas such as the need to boost efforts for “combating criminalization of LGBTQI status or conduct abroad” and “ protecting vulnerable LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers.” Perhaps most interestingly, and noteworthy, is section six of the memo in which President Biden titled “Rescinding Inconsistent Policies and Reporting on Progress.” This section includes a large portion dedicated explicitly to reversing the directives of the 4 years of the Trump administration, with the dates of the Trump administrations entrance and exit being named outright. Like other executive actions before it, the memo is providing a different path forward than the previous administration, and is doing so in a way that has meaningful implications for LGBTI persons at home and abroad.
Why is this new path forward so pertinent to LGBTI persons everywhere? Namely, it gives renewed hope of having progress, and more applicable, support, for LGBTI rights globally. With President Biden’s administration focusing more on the U.S. acting as a supporter of these rights, with various presidential actions directing agencies to once again act as supporters of LGBTQI rights worldwide, it gives a sense that for at least a few years the current administration will place an emphasis on assistance. This is something that was not focused on nearly as much during the Trump administration’s years. Arguably, the path forward as of now allows for LGBTI to have a breath of fresh air once again, as one of the most powerful nations on the planet has entered the fray in support of their rights, with agencies directed to give assistance across the globe to LGBTI persons suffering discrimination and persecution. The path forward may still be a rocky one for LGBTI persons, but for now, the U.S. administration is once again willing to lend a helping hand. ~ Alexander Champeau, 9th February 2021
Alexander Champeau, 22nd January 2021