So much progress has been made relatively quickly in recent years, but LGBT rights advocates have a list of areas where they would like to see more advancements for their cause. Here are three things they want to see happen next.
Passage of the Equality Act
The House passed the Equality Act — legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation — in 2019, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not take up the bill in the Senate. Alphonso David, the president and chief executive of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest gay rights groups in the United States, said that encouraging the Democratic Senate to sign the Equality Act into legislation is his organization’s “number one legislative priority.”
“The Equality Act would provide comprehensive legal protections to LGBTQ people in all 50 states,” he said. “Some would say, ‘Why would you need the Equality Act if Biden has already issued an executive order banning discrimination in federal agencies?’ Well, we need the Equality Act because in 29 states, we don’t have comprehensive legal protections. If I wanted to leave and travel to one of those states, I could face discrimination in one of those states.”
The bill — which would need the support of 60 senators, including Republicans, to pass in the Senate — would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people in housing, employment, jury duty, public education and other areas. It would make existing anti-LGBT discrimination ordinances nationwide obsolete.
Further increase LGBT representation in politics
Increasing the number of historically underrepresented groups in top levels of government has been a hallmark of Biden’s administration so far, including having the first female vice president in U.S. history. Leaders of the Victory Institute say that has to include getting more LGBT Americans appointed to top government positions in this administration.
Victory has advocated on behalf of dozens of LGBT individuals — including Buttigieg and Rachel Levine, who could become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
“Our position is if we put the right people in the right places, they will do the right things,” said Annise Parker, president of the Victory Institute, a D.C.-based organization that aims to get more LGBT officials in government.
Having individuals from the LGBT community in positions to shape policy could be key to making sure that the concerns of the gay community are considered by government’s top decision-makers.
“Decisions about LGBTQ lives and health and livelihood are better made when we’re part of the conversation, when we’re not being talked about but when we’re being talked with,” Parker said.
More focus on addressing AIDS
Before becoming a household name during the coronavirus pandemic, Anthony S. Fauci, now Biden’s chief medical adviser, was one of the nation’s foremost contributors to HIV/AIDS research as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization focused on LGBT issues in the Black community, said he would like to see the Biden administration increase the resources dedicated to addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis.
“We know it can be done,” Johns said. “We’ve seen the results of federal government leaders of industry and other well-resourced actions coming together for crisis.”
Then-President Donald Trump made headlines in 2019 by promising to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but he did not elaborate on how exactly he would do that. In a statement that same year on World AIDS Day, Biden said the United States “must strategically integrate our HIV/AIDS programs into a broader health and development agenda.”
As Johns prepares for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7, he said he looks forward to the administration detailing how they will respond to the challenges of living with AIDS with the same urgency as they have the coronavirus, which disproportionately harms Black and Latino Americans.
“In this moment, there is no better time than now to use the same thought, ingenuity, the same level commitment, the level of prioritization of creating space for folks to collaborate to find solutions and should be invested in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”