Today, President Biden directed federal agencies to affirm that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination under existing civil rights statutes. Biden is the first president to issue an Executive Order directly on LGBTQ rights on the first day in office, and today he has issued two.
The directive requires agencies to interpret federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on sex to also include sexual orientation and gender identity. This interpretation is consistent with the Supreme Court's decision in Bostock v. Clayton County last year. The directive applies to many civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination across a range of settings including education, housing, health care and others. The policies will extend protections to millions of LGBTQ youth and adults nationwide.
The order makes it clear that "children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports," directly addressing some of the areas of discrimination that most impact transgender children and youth.
The order also directly addresses intersectional discrimination— another first for presidential executive orders. The order states:
"Discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation manifests differently for different individuals, and it often overlaps with other forms of prohibited discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of race or disability. For example, transgender Black Americans face unconscionably high levels of workplace discrimination, homelessness, and violence, including fatal violence. It is the policy of my Administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. It is also the policy of my Administration to address overlapping forms of discrimination."
According to Williams Institute research, 13 million LGBTQ youth and adults live in the US. Fewer than half of them are currently covered by state-level laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
LGBTQ people continue to face discrimination in all areas of their lives. Recent Williams Institute research has documented discrimination against LGBTQ people inemployment, housing, public accommodations, health care, and other settings.
Highlights from this work include
- An analysis of complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that over 9,000 complaints of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination were filed between 2012 and 2016.
- An analysis of data collected by Gallup found that 60% of LGB people report being fired from or denied a job compared to 40% of heterosexual people.
- The same analysis found that 15% of LGB people report being prevented from moving into or buying a house compared to 6% of heterosexual people.
- Several reports have documented discrimination against LGBTQ people across a number of states. These reports indicate that discrimination is widespread and persistent across the U.S.
Discrimination takes a toll on the mental and physical health of LGBTQ people and on their economic wellbeing.
The Williams Institute research has found
- Stigma and discrimination increase risk for mental distress, mental, health problems, suicide, and lower social wellbeing among LGB people compared to their non-LGB counterparts.
- 17% of LGB adults and 30% of transgender adults have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, compared to 6% of the general population.
- 22% of LGBT adults live in poverty in the U.S. compared to 16% of non-LGBT people.
- 9% of LGBT adults are unemployed compared to 5% of non-LGBT people.
- 27% of LGBT adults experience food insecurity compared to 17% of non-LGBT adults.
- These reports indicate that LGBTQ people of color are even more likely to experience economic hardships.
"President Biden's directive will impact the lives of LGBTQ people nationwide," said Christy Mallory, legal director at the Williams Institute. "It will ensure that transgender students have access to facilities consistent with their gender identity in schools, that LGBTQ people have access to health care at a critical time, that transgender people are not turned away from shelters, and much more."
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.