LGBTQ Rights, Racial Equity Among President Biden's First Executive Orders

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

January 21, 2021

Executive orders relating to LGBT equality, diversity training and racial equity were among the top issues President Biden addressed on his first day in office. He signed an executive order Wednesday night that extends existing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protections to LGBTQ individuals.

In a broad order, President Biden directed all federal agencies to implement last June's groundbreaking Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that employers firing an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.

"Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes," wrote Biden. "All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation."

The order also noted that gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination often overlaps with other forms of prohibited discrimination, including on the basis of race or disability. As an example, it pointed out that transgender Black Americans face "unconscionably high levels of workplace discrimination, homelessness and violence."

Biden directed each agency head to develop a plan within 100 days to carry out the order.

Advancing Racial Equity

President Biden also moved quickly to issue an executive order on advancing racial equity that revokes President Trump's controversial executive order on race and sex anti-discrimination training.

Trump's directive had limited federal contractors' anti-discrimination and diversity training by banning the use of workplace trainings that include any form of race or sex stereotyping, scapegoating or "divisive concepts." A federal judge had recently blocked key parts of that order from being enforced.

In reversing that order, Biden said that affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole government. He wrote, "Each agency must assess whether, and to what extent, its programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other underserved groups."

The order also called for establishing a working group on equitable data charged with enabling the federal government to better gather data based on several characteristics in order to improve its efforts at measuring and advancing equity. These characteristics include:

  • Race;
  • Ethnicity;
  • Gender;
  • Disability; and
  • Veteran status.

While these executive orders direct federal agencies, they send a clear message to contractors and employers about the importance the administration is placing on equity in the workplace.