Pass the Equality Act to ensure explicit comprehensive federal protections for LGBTQ+ people. The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system.
- In 27 states, LGBTQ+ people are at risk of being refused housing or denied services simply because of who they are.
- 72 percent of Americans think these protections should be in place. The legislation was introduced in 2019 with support from hundreds of lawmakers, businesses, and more than 180 national and statewide organizations.
Pass the Do No Harm Act: The Do No Harm Act clarifies that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is intended to protect religious freedom without allowing the infliction of harm on other people. In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA has since been distorted to permit discrimination against vulnerable and historically marginalized populations. The Do No Harm Act would amend RFRA in order to restore the original intent of the legislation by specifically exempting areas of law where RFRA has been used to bypass federal protections.
- Individuals and businesses have utilized RFRA as a way to discriminate or to impose their religious beliefs on others.
- In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, in which the Justices were asked to decide whether requiring a corporation to provide insurance coverage that includes contraception under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a “substantial burden” on the corporation with religious objections, and whether corporations are covered by RFRA. The Court ruled that closely held for-profit corporations are exempt from complying with the ACA contraception mandate based on the company’s religious belief under RFRA.
Find a path to citizenship for DACA/DREAMERS: There are an estimated 81,000 LGBTQ+ Dreamers in the U.S., including 39,000 who have participated in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) according to the Williams Institute.
- LGBTQ+ immigrants often face unique challenges due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- In 69 countries, same-sex sexual activity is a criminal act that results in isolation, imprisonment, and in some countries; even the death penalty.
- LGBTQ+ immigrants have been known to suffer horrific abuse while in immigration detention centers due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Restore and Expand Trans Rights: The previous Administration was particularly harsh on rescinding or diminishing the rights of people who identify as transgender.
- **Rescinded on January 25, 2021 by Executive Order.** Rescind the trans military ban. Transgender individuals are about twice as likely as all adults in the U.S. to have served their country in the armed forces. Estimates suggest that approximately 15,500 transgender individuals are serving on active duty or in the Guard or Reserve forces. There are an estimated 134,300 transgender individuals who are veterans or are retired from Guard or Reserve service
- Restore Inclusive Implementation of the Equal Access Rule. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed revisions to the Equal Access regulation—a housing protection that prohibits discrimination in all HUD funded programs including rental assistance, emergency shelters, and FHA loan programs. These revisions specifically target transgender people seeking critical emergency shelter. They would allow shelters receiving taxpayer dollars to turn transgender people away entirely or provide unsafe housing.
- Ensure incarcerated transgender individuals are safely housed. The Federal Bureau of Prisons rolled back a policy that allowed incarcerated transgender people to be housed consistent with their gender identity. With transgender people experiencing sexual assault at dramatically higher rates than average, this decision only puts them at further risk of assault.
- Establish an interagency working group to address anti-transgender violence. Rates of violence against transgender people have reached epidemic proportions. This epidemic disproportionately impacts Black and Brown transgender women, who comprise approximately 4 in 5 of all anti-transgender homicides.
Ensure LGBTQ+ youth are protected: LGBTQ+ youth often face disparities compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers. LGBTQ+ youth represent as much as 40% of the homeless youth population in the United States. Research has shown that LGBTQ+ youth report significantly higher rates of having seriously considered suicide. Overall, more than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 in the U.S. seriously consider suicide each year.
- Prohibit the practice of conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is based on the outdated and false notion that being LGBTQ+ is a mental illness that should be cured, despite all major medical associations’ agreement that LGBTQ+ identities are a normal variant of human nature. Conversion therapy is widely opposed by prominent professional medical associations including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Ensure the enforcement of LGBTQ+ students’ rights under Title IX. Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs. The scope of Title IX’s sex discrimination provisions have traditionally been interpreted in accordance with Title VII, which the Supreme Court has held includes sexual orientation and gender identity. However, in 2017 the Departments of Education and Justice eliminated Obama-era guidance clarifying that schools must treat transgender students consistent with their identity. This encourages school officials to permit harassment of transgender students, deny access to facilities consistent with gender identity, and refuse to use correct names and pronouns— all inflicting emotional harm.
- Provide and enforce nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ children, parents, and families utilizing adoption and foster care services. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act will again be introduced this year. This is a federal bill that promotes the best interests of all foster children. It prohibits federally funded child welfare service providers from discriminating against children, families, and individuals based on religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status. The bill also bans conversion therapy for children receiving or participating in federally funded child welfare programs or services.
Other Policy Priorities
Establish uniform data collection standards: incorporation of sexual orientation and gender identity into federal surveys. One of the largest problems in LGBTQ data collection is the lack of uniformity in both what questions are asked relating to SOGI and how these questions are presented. The collection of accurate, complete data is essential to ensure that federal programs and policies are meeting the unique needs of the LGBTQ+ community.
Protect religious liberty and civil rights for all Americans. Freedom of religion is important but should never be used as a license to discriminate by infringing on the civil rights of others. Adverse impacts are felt most deeply and disproportionately by women, religious minorities, and LGBTQ+ people. To ensure equal treatment for these communities, it is imperative that the new administration take immediate action to rescind and replace the previous administration’s executive order, “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty”. And, in conjunction, the administration should direct all agencies to review and reconsider all rules, guidance, regulations, and other harmful policies that perpetuate this type of discrimination.
Address health disparities and inequities. All people who need medical care should be able to see their doctor without worrying about being mistreated, harassed, or denied service outright. The new administration must reverse harmful rules that perpetuate or widen health disparities and inequities including prohibiting federal agencies, contractors, and grantees from offering diversity, equity, and inclusion training, the rollback of anti-discrimination protections in the Affordable Care Act’s Section 1557, the rules and regulations permitting overly broad religious and moral exemptions from providing contraception and the rollback of various nursing home regulations.
Appoint openly-LGBTQ+ justices, judges, executive officials, and ambassadors. The federal judiciary, executive offices, and ambassadorships should reflect the diversity of the country. The appointment of openly-LGBTQ+ individuals sends a vitally important message to the LGBTQ+ community, including youth, about their equal ability to serve their country at the highest levels of government.
End discrimination against gay and bisexual blood donors. Largely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) amended the deferral on blood donation for gay and bisexual men from one-year to three months. This change, however, continues to effectively bar the vast majority of gay and bisexual men from becoming blood donors irrespective of their risk for HIV. HHS should adopt a policy based in sound science that assesses all potential donors based on their engagement in risky behavior, not on sexual orientation.
Create a roadmap for a national HIV/AIDS strategy. HIV continues to be a significant public health crisis in this country. Recent data reveal that approximately 1.2 million people are living with HIV. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) make up the greatest share of new HIV diagnoses. Transgender people have experienced marked increases in HIV diagnoses; and Black and African American and Latino and Hispanic communities continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV.
Support HIV Decriminalization Laws: HIV criminalization is the wrongful use of one’s HIV positive status in a criminal prosecution, either under “HIV specific” criminal laws or under general criminal statutes, when charges or punishments are heightened simply because the person charged has HIV. About 2/3rds have “HIV-specific” statutes that result in prosecutions of PLHIV for having sexual contact without being able to prove they disclosed their HIV positive status in advance.
Protect LGBTQ+ older adults: Fully implement the 2020 Older Americans Act. Many LGBTQ+ older adults have experienced stigma and discrimination throughout their lives and encounter unique challenges to healthy aging. This legislation requires that state and local departments of aging are held accountable for engaging in outreach to LGBTQ+ older people who are in need of services, as well as for participating in data collection and reporting on the needs of this population.