June 14, 2021

Biden marks Pride Month by pressing for Equality Act passage, expanding global rights agenda

Returning to a tradition that was shelved during the previous Republican administration, the Joe Biden White House issued its first LGBTQ+ Pride Month Proclamation on June 1.

In it, Biden praised civil rights activists working for LGBTQ+ equality, lambasted physical as well as legislative attacks on transgender Americans, and reiterated his support for the Equality Act, legislation that seeks to ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination nationally. The Equality Act passed the United States House of Representatives earlier this year, but remains stalled in the Senate in part due to Republican use of the filibuster.

“While I am proud of the progress my Administration has made in advancing protections for the LGBTQ+ community, I will not rest until full equality for LGBTQ+ Americans is finally achieved and codified into law. That is why I continue to call on the Congress to pass the Equality Act, which will ensure civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ people and families across our country,” Biden stated.

Despite the progress the community has made over the decades, “… [T]here are many states in which LGBTQ+ individuals still lack protections for fundamental rights and dignity in hospitals, schools, public accommodations, and other spaces,” Biden noted. “Our nation continues to witness a tragic spike in violence against transgender women of color. LGBTQ+ individuals — especially youth who defy sex or gender norms — face bullying and harassment in educational settings and are at a disproportionate risk of self-harm and death by suicide. Some states have chosen to actively target transgender youth through discriminatory bills that defy our nation’s values of inclusivity and freedom for all.”

Of particular interest to Americans living outside the United States, Biden stated that his administration is also working to promote and protect LGBTQ+ human rights abroad. "LGBTQ+ rights are human rights, which is why my Administration has reaffirmed America’s commitment to supporting those on the front lines of the equality and democracy movements around the world, often at great risk,” he stated. “We see you, we support you, and we are inspired by your courage to accept nothing less than full equality.”

DNC Chair Jaime Harrison and LGBTQ Caucus Chair Earl Fowlkes also released a statement in celebration of Pride Month, noting, “Now is the time for Republicans to join Democrats in supporting the Equality Act and end legal discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans.”

Biden also called for passage of the Equality Act on May 17 as part of his statement on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

The Equality Act is facing an uphill battle in the Senate. Because of the filibuster, Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to vote in favor of the bill. Even then, the Democratic caucus may not be united, with West Virginia’s Joe Manchin remaining ambivalent on the legislation.

While the White House continues its domestic lobbying efforts, it is moving ahead with its global LGBTQ+ rights agenda. Last month, the State Department announced its five priorities for the Biden Administration in its efforts to promote LGBTQ+ rights worldwide.

The decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is job one, State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who is openly gay, told the Washington Blade newspaper. Being LGBTQ+ is illegal in over 70 countries, punishable by death in a handful of nations.

Other goals for the State Department include protecting LGBTQ+ migrants and asylum seekers, funding efforts “to protect human rights and to advance nondiscrimination around the world,” responding to anti-LGBTQ+ human rights abuses, and “building coalitions and engaging international organizations in the fight against this discrimination,” Pride told the Blade.

In addition, last month the State Department updated its interpretation and implementation of the Immigration and Nationality Act with respect to transmission of citizenship to children. In practical terms, the government has eliminated a policy refusing to acknowledge the U.S. citizenship of children born to many married same-sex couples.

According to the group Immigration Equality, the State Department previously claimed that both parents had to be biologically related to a child in order for them to be recognized as a U.S. citizen at birth. However, the Immigration and Nationality Act never required a biological relationship for married parents. As such, every federal court that heard the issue found that the policy contravened the law. But now, the government will recognize the children of all married U.S. citizens who are born abroad as citizens at birth.

“This is a remarkable moment for all the LGBTQ+ families who fought the U.S. State Department’s unconstitutional policy,” said Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality. “It demonstrates that when our community is united, and relentlessly pushes back against discrimination, we win. We have once again affirmed that it is not biology but love that makes a family.”