With the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States, many LGBTQ+ students at the University of Oregon want to see his administration grant more protections to members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially the reversal of discriminatory actions against transgender Americans.
UO graduate student Steph Fisher said they wished they could have higher expectations for the Biden administration. “What we need in our community is a really strong presence against violence against trans students,” they said, “and I haven't really seen that yet.”
In 2017, the Trump administration enacted a ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, in which transgender people could only serve in the U.S. military if they conformed to the body standards of their biological sex. Transgender people had only just been allowed to serve and transition in the military as of 2016, after the government had lifted a previous longtime ban.
Ainsley Maddalena is a bisexual UO undergraduate student. She said she wanted to see the Biden administration grant transgender people equal and affordable access to healthcare.
The Affordable Care Act, which the Obama administration put forward in 2010, prohibited discrimination in health care on the basis of race, color, sex, age or disability. The Obama administration interpreted protection on the basis of sex to include gender identity. The Trump administration reversed these protections for transgender people in healthcare in June 2020 by narrowing the definition of sex discrimination so that it did not include transgender people.
On the Transgender Day of Remembrance in 2020, Biden tweeted two statements showing support for transgender and gender non-conforming people. In one tweet, Biden stated, “To transgender and gender-nonconforming people across America and around the world: from the moment I am sworn in as president, know that my administration will see you, listen to you, and fight for not only your safety but also the dignity and justice you have been denied.” In the second tweet, Biden acknowledged the loss of 37 transgender women of color in America this year and added that, “This Transgender Day of Remembrance, we honor their lives—and recommit to the work that remains to end this epidemic of violence.”
Biden has already appointed many members of the LGBTQ+ community to his administration. One of which is Pete Buttigieg, a gay man Biden nominated to be the U.S. Transportation Secretary. Another being Shawn Skelly, a transgender veteran Biden nominated to be part of the Department of Defense team. She also was appointed to the Obama administration in 2013. Biden’s administration is on track to be the most LGBTQ-inclusive in United States history, NBC News reported.
Fisher also wants to see more protections for LGBTQ+ people at a federal level, because of the inconsistency that comes with letting the states decide how — or if — they will protect LGBTQ+ people.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the workplace and is an example of a step toward more protections for LGBTQ+ people at a federal level.
After the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September 2020, the Trump administration replaced her with Amy Coney Barrett in October 2020. This shifted the Supreme Court majority from a 5-4 Republican majority to a 6-3 Republican majority.
“Having a Democrat as president makes it better,” Fisher said, “but I think it might not be enough. A lot of our government systems are so outdated at this point, in the Supreme Court you’re appointed for the rest of your life, and that keeps changes from being made.”