“And to all those who supported us: I am proud of the campaign we built and ran. I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history,” Biden said. “Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Progressives, moderates and conservatives. Young and old. Urban, suburban and rural. Gay, straight, transgender.”
In just a few short sentences, Biden signaled his readiness to usher in an era of renewed LGBTQ protection after four years of the very opposite.
Among other things, he was referring to Harris’ pro-LGBTQ track record, which goes back to when she entered politics in 2004, and to the former vice president’s radical shift on LGBTQ rights. Biden went from voting for the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 to getting out ahead of former President Barack Obama in publicly backing marriage equality in 2012.
These changes include reversed, dropped, removed and withdrawn LGBTQ protections in areas such as employment, health care, criminal justice and public life.
In particular, the administration has made a target of transgender Americans, whom some LGBTQ advocates say the Trump White House has attempted to use as a wedge against the broader coalition.
There’s also Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s third pick to the high court.
For many LGBTQ Americans, though, the new justice is more like a specter, waiting to strike at their rights.
Barrett has limited experience as a federal judge. But that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t participated in important cultural and political conversations and, in consequence, offered insight into her convictions.
“Maybe things have changed so that we should change Title IX,” Barrett said in 2016. “Maybe those arguing in favor of this kind of transgender bathroom access are right. … But it does seem to strain the text of the statute to say that Title IX demands it, so is that the kind of thing that the Court should interpret the statute to update it to pick sides on this policy debate? Or should we go to our Congress?”
The system “effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in the classroom,” the AP found.
While it remains to be seen whether Barrett’s opinions on the 6-3 conservative majority high court will track with her prior stances and affiliations, the anxiety hovering over LGBTQ Americans is real.
Just on Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito reiterated in an inflammatory speech his retrograde belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
“Until very recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now, it’s considered bigotry,” he said.
No one knows the continued attempts to erode equality that a second Trump term might have brought. But it’s no little thing to be able to look ahead to repair and progress instead of injury.
The Biden administration won’t be able to fix everything that its predecessor has damaged over the past four years. And there will be no easy triumphalism, especially if Republicans hold the Senate majority.
But Biden and his team can take meaningful actions to undo much of the harm.
Gay, transgender. To many, Biden’s words might have seemed unremarkable. But given their centrality in the President-elect’s victory speech, these words registered as a promise — that come January, LGBTQ Americans will have a champion in the White House.