The Democrat's LGBTQIA+ Plan: What Could A Biden-Harris Administration Do For LGTBQIA+ Rights?

With only two days until Americans go to the polls to elect a new President and Vice President, as well as the House of Representatives and thirty-five Senators, I thought I'd provide an overview of what a potential Biden-Harris Administration could do to build on, and advance, the protections deserved by LGTBQIA+ Americans.

Will Joe Biden and Kamala Harris seek to replicate the protections implemented under the Obama-Biden Administration, or will they want to carve out their own path? This piece seeks only to highlight the central tenets of the Democratic Party's manifesto.

All views in this piece are entirely my own. Still, I will aim to do so in a politically neutral way to ensure the professional standard that must be met for QLT.

The Biden-Harris Plan for LGTBQIA+ equality can be found in full here. It's divided into seven essential parts which I will aim to describe in brief by solely focusing on what their legislative intentions would be. I'll also consider how they'll tackle the perpetuating socio-economic issues LGBTQIA+ Americans face every day, and how these may inform the laws they want to pass.

The seven key points in the Biden-Harris Administration are stated as follows:

  1. Protect LGBTQIA+ people from discrimination

  2. Support LGBTQIA+ youth

  3. Protect LGTBQIA+ individuals from violence and work to end the epidemic of violence against the transgender community, particularly transgender women of colour

  4. Expand access to high-quality healthcare for LGBTQIA+ individuals

  5. Ensure fair treatment of LGBTQIA+ individuals in the criminal justice system

  6. Collect data necessary to fully support the LGBTQIA+ community

  7. Advance global LGBTQIA+ rights and development.”

One/ uno – Protect LGTBQIA+ people from discrimination

A potential Biden-Harris Administration would rightfully prioritise the passing of the Equality Act. Due to the landmark nature of this Act, which would prohibit any form of workplace discrimination, Biden and Harris would try to get this passed through Congress within his first 100 days. By doing this, it could signify what a Biden-Harris Administration could do for, firstly, LGBTQIA+ rights, but also how they will go about working with Congress. Passing this Act will be especially helpful in seeing how they would work with Congress, especially if there isn't a Democratic majority in either the House or the Senate.

Another priority stated by Biden and Harris, at first, in their respected campaigns, was the needed reversal of the transgender military ban. This would allow anyone who identifies as transgender to serve openly in the military, be able to receive needed medical treatment, and be protected under the same anti-discrimination laws.

Two/ dos – Protect LGTBQIA+ youth

Biden and Harris would do numerous things to help out LGTBQIA+ youth. To express their support for young LGBTQIA+ children and adults, they would build on the work Biden did as Vice President in the Obama Administration. Firstly, this would include reinstating the guidance implemented by Obama and Biden, which would allow students to access sports, bathrooms and locker rooms in schools and that match their gender identity. After the Trump Administration's constant rollback on transgender protections, this will be a (re-)welcomed accomplishment that would allow transgender people to start feeling accepted and respected by the government.

Secondly, to allow LGBTQIA+ individuals to feel respected, safe and heard, the passing of the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act would be much welcomed. This legislation would establish a grant/ discount programme to support anti-harassment programs on school, college and university campuses. This, in turn, can be phased out with the research that could be conducted from passing a law that would be similar to what Pennsylvania passed, in the form of Philip’s Law.

This law would require Biden's Secretary of Education to undertake a well-planned, well-executed study of mental health needs and services in American schools. This would make sure LGTBQIA+ students felt like they're supported at both the national level, but also on a more personal level when they're going to school every weekday. By knowing that a specialist in mental health provision has the time, place and resources to help you, LGBTQIA+ youth may feel more comfortable in seeking assistance.

Bringing in the above would kickstart the process of making schools and campuses feel like safer places for LGBTQIA+ youth. Currently, this is far from the case with the hateful rhetoric spewing from the Trump-Pence Administration. According to GLSEN’s June 2016 report, Educational Exclusion: Drop Out, Push Out, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline among LGBTQ Youth, they found out that “2/5 LGBTQIA+ students reported receiving detention, in-school or out-of-school suspension and/or expulsion from school”, with higher rates for LGBTQIA+ students of colour, particularly those who are transgender or non-conforming in their gender and, those who have visible and invisible disabilities.

Legislating in the above, although not immediately afterwards, will help LGBTQIA+ student sustain their educational attainment. Therefore, they’re more likely to complete high school and get the necessary qualifications they need to go to their next school or workplace. This, in turn, albeit slowly, will reduce rates of socio-economic deprivation faced by young LGBTQIA+ people. When we have access to a reliable, understanding and respectful education and school led by teachers that understand our worries, we know we can achieve anything.

Three/ tres – Protect LGBTQIA+ individuals from violence and work to end the epidemic of violence against the transgender community, particularly transgender women of colour

In the light of the ever-increasing murders committed against transgender women of colour, such as Dominique ‘Rem’mie’ Fells and Riah Milton, a Biden-Harris Administration would prioritise their protection with the utmost urgency. Biden and Harris will aim to pass the Violence Against Women Reauthorisation Act 2019. This would contain additional protections for LGBTQIA+ people, including imprisoned transgender individuals, so charity organisation could receive funding by saying that the LGTBQIA+ community is an "underserved population". This Act would allow charitable organisations to help vulnerable transgender women of colour in particular to no longer be another number in a database. Instead, they would be a life that can now be protected in every way possible.

Rather crucially, the Biden-Harris campaign has also stressed the importance of documenting transphobic-fuelled crimes. With Harris's history in prosecution, this could help in encouraging the FBI to update its Uniform Crime Reports Supplementary Homicide Reports (UCR-SHR). Incidents would include the sexual orientation and gender identity or expression of victims, which isn't currently practised. Any information collected from these databases would be incredibly illuminating in realising how widespread and pervasive homophobic- and transphobic-inspired attacks are. These numbers can be analysed to devise plans to make sure every measure is put into place to make any LGBTQIA+ victims feel heard and understood. This is ever the more resonating, especially since this is a pattern and growing trend that can't be ignored.

Four/ cuatro – Expand access to high-quality healthcare for LGTBQIA+ individuals

A Biden-Harris Administration's priorities for LGBTQIA+ healthcare would be two-fold. Firstly, they would try and ensure that all LGTBQIA+ individuals have reliable access to treatments and associated resources. These will include covering care related to transitioning – including gender confirmation surgery, as well as covering the costs for HIV treatment and prevention.

Biden's Administration would aim for all federal health plans to include coverage for PrEP and PEP. Additionally, the need to halt the price inflation of these life-saving drugs by the pharmaceutical industry would also be pursued. Unfortunately, this industry holds a lot of sway in state legislatures and Congress because of the money they donate to people's campaigns.

Crucially, Biden and Harris have unequivocally committed their intention to ban so-called “conversion therapy” and the brutal connotations it has. As of writing this piece, only nineteen States have full banned “conversion therapy” for under-eighteens. Biden and Harris will aim to pass the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, which would “prohibit commercial conversion therapy” in its entirety. This would be nothing more than welcomed as its shameful that it has taken so long to prohibit this discriminatory-based practice. This alleged “therapy” only leaves LGBTQIA+ individuals harmed and traumatised in ways we’re still learning about today. Once the whole Union is consistent in what the law is, it can serve as a motivator for other countries to take the necessary to ban this practice. America must understand that other countries and their peoples’ look up to it for guidance, and it should take pride in that.

Five/ cinco – Ensure fair treatment of LGTBQIA+ individuals in the criminal justice system

The treatment of LGBTQIA+ individuals in the criminal justice system is something that would be significantly considered by a Biden-Harris Administration. This will be helped in part because of Harris's experience as the Attorney-General of California. Most interestingly, they would set about making sure any transgender prisoners in federal correctional facilities will be able to get necessary medical care. This would allow consultations with OBYGNs and hormones for hormone therapy. Therefore, still allowing them to transition into the person they know who they are and want to become.

Another area that was spearheaded by Harris in her presidential campaign was the urgent need to increase funding for public defenders. These lawyers are so often left overwhelmed with ever-increasing workloads. They also want to end cash bail. This would, above all, stop the unwarranted imprisoning of people who are unable to pay fines and fees at the given time they're arrested. This would help predominantly low-income individuals from deprived areas that are sometimes from ethnic minorities.

Six/ seis – Collect data necessary to fully support the LGTBQIA+ community

Biden and Harris would aim to support the LGBTQIA+ community by taking a quantitative approach as to how and why the community is often disregarded, forgotten and sometimes targeted in hatred-fuelled attacks. Firstly, they would like to pass the LGBTQ Data Inclusion Act LGBTQ Data Inclusion Act. This would require federal agencies to collect voluntary info on sexual orientation and gender identity on certain population surveys. This would include the Census. This would help shape governmental policy at both the state and federal level in allocating the necessary funds. This would help communities who are particularly at risk from the multi-faceted effects of socio-economic deprivation.

They will also want to aim to pass the LGBTQ Data Essential Act. This would seek to improve data collection in regards to the causes of violent deaths in the LGBTQIA+ community, which could serve as the foundation for the above – and desperately needed reform – of the FBI's SHRs. This would give them the legislative framework to compel all emergency services to take a more holistic and sensitive approach to emergencies that involve the LGTBQIA+ community.

Seven/ siete – Advance global LGTBQIA+ rights and development

Biden and Harris understand that for the US to be a leader in LGBTQIA+ equality, it has to practice both at home and abroad. The US, they realise, can't argue from a position of hypocrisy and turn a blind eye to human rights abuses when they don't align with other interests.

Therefore, Biden has stated in his plan that to signify the above message to LGBTQIA+ people around the world, he will issue a Presidential Memorandum. This will highlight the US's support for the development of LGBTQIA+ rights around the globe. This memorandum, in part, will serve as the bedrock of two new positions that Biden and Harris would like to create for there to be specifically-tailored approaches. These positions will help add to the social and cultural aspect of the US's foreign policy.

The positions, respectively, will be the appointment of a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of the LGBTQIA+ Persons at the State Department (the US’s equivalent of the Foreign Office) and the appointment of a Special Co-ordinator in charge of international LGTBQIA+ programming at USAID.

These positions will be able to help implement the message behind the GLOBE Act – which in the House of Representatives – to cement the US's commitment, regardless of the White House's occupant, to advancing LGBTQIA+ rights and justice. This will play a more central and well-considered role in the conduct of America's foreign policy and international development abroad.

Closing remarks

Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are in absolute agreement as to what has to be done for LGBTQIA+ Americans to feel safer at home, but also for LGTBQIA+ citizens across the globe. They understand that the US still has a long way to go before full LGBTQIA+ equality and justice is reached. Still, at least they have the good-hearted intentions to go about making sure both LGTBQIA+ Americans and foreign-born citizens can rely on a Biden-Harris Administration to look out for them. They understand the pervasive and crippling issues that still affect so many in the community. The legislative proposals they give and want to improve on demonstrate how they want to take a holistic, thorough and data-led approach to advance LGBTQIA+ rights and equality.

Respectively, Biden will be able to do this from the White House and with the drafting of Executive Orders if need be. With Harris possibly being the President of the Senate, she'll be able to work with senators to make sure that the above Act's reach the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

However, it must be acknowledged that their above proposals will be more problematic to manifest if the Democrats don't have a majority in either the House of Representatives or Senate. If the Democrats can only claim the White House, then a political deadlock may hinder the progress they want to make. They would have to wait for any special by-elections or the upcoming midterms in 2022, to try and secure a Democratic majority in either chamber.

Finally, and most worryingly, the legislative aims of a Democratic Administration could be halted if there is a legal ground that could be taken to the US Supreme Court. With the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, they could undo any meaningful change as her appointment means there is now a conservative supermajority. This outnumbers the liberals on the court – Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan – by 6-3.

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