By Amanda Menas
After years of improvements to levels of acceptance of LGBTQ+ students by their peers, between 2015 and 2017, the National School Climate Survey reported that schools are becoming more hostile against LGBTQ+ youth. Nearly half of all LGBTQ+ students live in states where they are not protected from discrimination or bullying. They could turn to federal protections, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has time and time again turned her back on them.
They don’t have the support of the president, either. On the anniversary of a hate crime against the LGBTQ+ community, Donald Trump erased healthcare protections for transgender individuals.
According to a report by the Center for American Progress, under DeVos, the Education Department is nine times less likely than the Obama administration to take action on Title IX complaints related to sexual orientation or gender – no surprise given the DOE’s reversal of Obama-era guidelines affirming protections for transgender students. DeVos has stripped Title IX protections for LGBTQ+ students and refuses to discuss the high rates of suicide among transgender students.
“Secretary DeVos has fallen short yet again on a very simple and fundamental premise of her duty: to protect all students,” says NEA President Lily Eskelsen García about DeVos’ move to strip LGBTQ+ students of their Title IX rights. “This Trump-DeVos agenda would return schools to a time when rape, assault, and harassment were swept under the rug.”
If Joe Biden is elected in November, LGBTQ+ students, educators, and families will have a place to turn: the White House. Joe and Jill Biden have promised to support ALL students, and be a partner to educators. Following the landmark Supreme Court ruling this week that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, also applies to LGBTQ people, Biden said it “confirmed the simple but profoundly American idea that every human being should be treated with respect and dignity, that everyone should be able to live openly, proudly, as their true selves without fear.”
Here are five ways Joe Biden will continue to support the LGBTQ+ community:
He Supports the Equality Act
Joe Biden supports the passage of the Equality Act which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal laws to give LGBTQ+ people consistent and explicit protection from discrimination. Students and educators have made it clear that today’s patchwork of laws leaves LGBTQ+ people vulnerable to discrimination in their daily lives, and sends the message they are second-class citizens. The act has already passed the House but is held up in the Senate. Biden says the passage of the act, “will be the first thing I ask to be done.”
He will fight discrimination
While the Trump administration has stripped transgender individuals of their rights from the classroom to the hospital, where in the middle of Pride Month a regulation erased protections for trans patients against discrimination by health professionals, Biden has put his anti-discrimination agenda front and center in his campaign. “As president, I will combat the epidemic of violence against transgender women and transgender women of color,” said Biden. He also promises to create a national database for hate crime reporting collection, and prioritize victim assistance and support. When in office, Biden will restore transgender students’ access to sports, bathrooms, and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity.
Biden has also criticized the Trump Administration for using “religious freedom as an excuse to license discrimination.”
He will combat hate crimes
In order to combat hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, Biden has proposed gun reform and prioritizing the prosecution of hate crimes by his Department of Justice. He says, “With the number of hate crimes targeting LGBTQ individuals on the rise, we must enact measures to keep guns out of dangerous hands and keep LGBTQ people safe.”
During the Obama-Biden administration, he also helped pass the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Act which expanded the nation’s hate crimes law to include crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
He supports the Safe Schools Improvement Act
Biden says he will support the proposed anti-bullying law or similar legislation “to address the problem of bullying and harassment of students in public elementary and secondary schools.” He will ensure that the Trump administration’s regulations are reversed to require federally funded schools to prohibit harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, Biden has proposed doubling the number of psychologists, guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals in schools, to provide additional student support.
He will support LGBTQ+ educators
During the Obama-Biden administration, an executive order was signed prohibiting discrimination against federal LGBTQ employees or those working for federal contractors. In helping pass the Equality Act, Biden will ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals do not face discrimination with respect to “employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.”