In 1989, the ABA House of Delegates (HOD) approved the association's first policy resolution supporting enactment of federal and state legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The resolution specifically focused on employment, housing, and public accommodations. Since then, the HOD has approved no fewer than 46 policy resolutions that advance LGBTQ rights and interests.
On the first day in office, President Biden signed an Executive order stating unequivocally that—
It is the policy of my Administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
That order not only set out a national commitment to equality and nondiscrimination, but also charged every federal agency to examine all agency actions for consistency with its antidiscrimination policy and to enforce federal prohibitions on sex discrimination as applicable to discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
In the past four months, President Biden and his administration have issued 8 Executive Orders and taken at least 10 other administrative steps to advance LGBTQ rights, most recently on May 10th when it announced its intent to reverse limits on health care protections against discrimination for gay and transgender people. It should be no surprise that many of these steps appear responsive to the ABA's recommendations. From housing to healthcare, from schools to prisons, from advancing gay rights around the world to enabling all qualified Americans to serve in the military, the current administration has been as unequivocal as the ABA in promoting federal protection for LGBTQ persons.
The administration has also endorsed enactment of the Equality Act, legislation with provisions designed to protect LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination, from being denied services and public accommodations, from being denied or evicted from housing, from being denied credit, and from discrimination in jury service based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. This bill (H.R. 5), which passed the House of Representatives in February, was specifically endorsed in a January 2019 HOD resolution that in turn was embodied in advocacy letters to Congress by two ABA presidents.
The ABA has been steadfast in its commitment not just to nondiscrimination, but to affirmative steps to advance diversity, equality, and inclusion, demonstrated not only by HOD resolutions, but in staffing, programming, organization, and advocacy. This commitment, which has long included LGBTQ people, is especially reflected in our advocacy before Congress and the Executive branch, as well as through our international rule of law and human rights programs.
When the Implementation Committee of the House of Delegates looks for its next success story, it need search no further: the advancement of LGBTQ rights has become an integral part of ABA advocacy, and advances in this area at the federal level in the past four months have been unparalleled.
To learn about developments as they occur, follow us @ABAGrassroots.