News (USA)

President Biden establishes an initiative that will protect LGBTQ federal employees

31 March 2021: This picture shows American President Joe Biden giving strength during press conference
President Joe Biden (D) Photo: Shutterstock

President Joe Biden (D) has signed an extensive executive order aiming to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the Federal Government. The order issued yesterday evening calls for the creation of an initiative led by two executive offices, “in close partnership” with the White House and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Biden’s order specifically includes directives that the President believes “advances equity in the workplace for LGBTQ+ public servants” because “for too long, LGBTQ+ employees have faced discrimination and harassment in the workplace.”

Related: State Department tosses Trump regulation that denied citizenship to gay couples’ kids

The executive order’s directives include tasking this initiative with “ensur[ing] that the Federal health benefits system equitably serves LGBTQ+ employees and their dependents,” meaning they will look to “expanding access to comprehensive gender-affirming health care” in federal government sectors where employees may not receive equitable health care.

The initiative will also make sure that access to sick leave and life insurance also will “equitably serve LGBTQ+ individuals and all families with diverse family structures.”

All federal agencies are going to be tasked with implementing gender-neutral facilities and the use of gender markers or pronoun options that “respects transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary employees.”

The last LGBTQ-specific directive in Biden’s order calls for federal agencies to provide equitable support services to LGBTQ staff. Biden specifically included “transgender and gender non-conforming and non-binary employees who wish to legally, medically, or socially transition.”

The lengthy executive order also issues several requirements that the Biden administration believes will bring the federal government toward equitable treatment of marginalized identities. It materially furthers an order that Biden issued on his first day in office, which called for “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”

Other steps that Biden orders federal officials to take include steps to ensuring pay equity, improving accessibility for people with disabilities, strengthening recruitment efforts from racially diverse communities, increasing access to paid internships, and expanding opportunities for formerly incarcerated people.

The Secretaries of Defense and Commerce, as well as the Director of National Intelligence, are specifically tasked in Section 11 — pertaining to LGBTQ+ public servants — with taking action to further provide equity. The current Defense Secretary is Lloyd G. Austin, the Commerce Secretary is Gina Raimondo, and the Director of National Intelligence is Avril Haines.

The initiative will be led by two executive branch departments, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Biden tasks the OPM Director and the OMB’s Deputy Director for Management to coordinate with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair to ensure these directives are followed, in close partnership with the White House.

Federal agencies are expected to identify barriers to employment, and create a plan that will eliminate them, within the next 100 days.

“As the Nation’s largest employer, the Federal Government must be a model for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, where all employees are treated with dignity and respect,” Biden declared in the order.

“Accordingly, the Federal Government must strengthen its ability to recruit, hire, develop, promote, and retain our Nation’s talent and remove barriers to equal opportunity. It must also provide resources and opportunities to strengthen and advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility across the Federal Government.”

Policy officials and LGBTQ advocates have cheered the order, issued the same day that President Biden delivered remarks in recognition of Pride Month and signed into law a resolution declaring Pulse as a national monument.

“Pride is back at the White House,” President Biden declared from the East Room of the White House.

Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), called the order “huge news.”

Susan Rice, the former Ambassador to the UN and current Domestic Policy Adviser, said in a tweet, “If you’re an LGBTQ+ individual wanting to be yourself, a person with disabilities seeking equal access, someone who was incarcerated trying to get back on your feet—or just a young person who can’t afford an unpaid internship—the changes we’re putting in place will matter hugely.”

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