President Joe Biden issued a presidential memorandum today that will protect the rights of LGBTQ people worldwide.
The new policies will include “combatting criminalization and protecting LGBTQ refugees and asylum-seekers,” Biden told reporters after a speech to State Department workers.
“America can no longer afford to be absent from the world stage” and must protect “every ethnic background,” LGBTQ people, women, and religious minorities, Biden affirmed.
“With today’s presidential memorandum, President Biden and Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken recommit the United States to a foreign policy that protects and supports the human rights of LGBTQ people abroad,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said. “Around the world, many LGBTQ people still face discrimination, persecution, and violence simply for who they are or who they love.”
“When America is at its best, it leads with the dignity and human rights of all as our North Star,” Out & Equal’s Director of Communications, Noam Shelef added. “We welcome the President’s new memorandum on the rights of LGBTQ individuals worldwide.”
“We know that there is a need to support LGBTQ refugees. We have seen neo-authoritarian leaders — in Turkey, Brazil, Poland, and elsewhere — stoke hatred of the LGBTQ community in an effort to rile up their base. We also struggle with attacks on the LGBTQ community in the United States.”
Biden’s memo will make it “clear that the United States is a nation that values LGBTQ people at home and abroad, and is willing to fight to ensure every person is able to live free and equal,” David added.
The memo isn’t Biden’s first pro-LGBTQ action since assuming office. He has also removed former President Donald Trump’s arbitrary ban on transgender members of the military, and ordered government agencies to comply with all nondiscrimination laws – including protections for LGBTQ people.
Biden’s LGBTQ anti-discrimination executive order tells the heads of all executive agencies to “review all existing orders, regulations, guidance documents, policies, programs, or other agency actions” in order to ensure that they are interpreting bans on sex discrimination in federal law to also ban discrimination “prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
The executive order cites the Supreme Court’s 2020 Bostock v. Clayton Co. decision, which found that the ban on job discrimination “because of sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also bans discrimination against LGBTQ people, since anti-LGBTQ discrimination is inherently based on sex.
But the order goes beyond Title VII and says that the same reasoning could apply to other federal anti-discrimination laws, like Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Fair Housing Act, and section 412 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The order could have far-reaching effects. Under the Obama administration, executive departments started using an interpretation of discrimination because of sex that included LGBTQ people based on legal arguments that were being accepted by federal courts.
In 2017, the Trump administration’s gay ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, announced a U.S.-led campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide. The campaign was a central feature in an election video produced by an LGBTQ Republican group in which Grenell claimed Trump was “the most pro-gay president in American history.”
“The decriminalization campaign is smoke and mirrors,” Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, told The Daily Beast at the time. “The U.S. opposed criminalization long before President Trump took office – and saying people shouldn’t be imprisoned for being LGBT is the bare minimum of what the U.S. should be doing, not a bold endeavor.”
Other LGBTQ advocates noted that the campaign hadn’t really done much besides hold a couple of meetings.
It was “nothing more than a series of self-promoting Twitter photos,” said Julie Dorf of the Council for Global Equality.