President Joe Biden signed a sweeping executive order on Thursday that recommits his administration to the fight for racial equity and support for underserved communities that were central to Executive Order 13985, the policy the president signed on his first day in office.
Both executive orders are broad in scope and detailed in practice, demanding a “whole of government approach” to root out and remedy the systemic racism that is baked into American institutions, including the federal government.
In a fact sheet accompanying Thursday’s Executive Order on Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through The Federal Government, the White House said that despite progress under the Biden-Harris administration over the last two years, “underserved communities — many of whom have endured generations of discrimination and disinvestment — still confront unacceptable barriers to equal opportunity and the American dream.”
The new executive order marks a significant step toward addressing systemic racism and inequality in the United States. The order reaffirms the administration’s commitment to pursuing equity and promoting social justice, with a focus on communities that have historically faced barriers to success.
The order requires federal agencies to conduct a comprehensive review of their policies and programs to identify any practices that perpetuate systemic racism or other forms of discrimination. It also directs agencies to take specific actions to address the needs of underserved communities, including investing in education, housing, and healthcare.
The White House further notes in the new executive order that its mandate is complemented by Executive Order 14035 of June 25, 2021 (“Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce”).
The new document includes mention of the historic achievements of LGBTQ Americans during the Biden-Harris administration:
“We have taken historic steps to advance full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) Americans, including by ending the ban on transgender service members in our military; prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics across Federal programs; and signing into law the Respect for Marriage Act (Public Law 117-228) to preserve protections for the rights of same-sex and interracial couples.
My administration is also implementing the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality to ensure that all people, regardless of gender, have the opportunity to realize their full potential.”
Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Chiraag Bains, Biden’s deputy assistant for racial justice and equity, said, “this is about racial equity, but it is about equity more broadly as well, and that includes for LGBTQI+ Americans as well.”
Bains noted the timeliness of the new executive order as Republican state legislators have issued a record-breaking number of anti-LGBTQ bills, overwhelmingly targeting the transgender community.
He acknowledged these matters are “a matter of life and death,” pointing to the shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., last November.
Thursday’s executive order also stipulates that “in September 2023, and on an annual basis thereafter, concurrent with the agencies’ submission to [the Office of Management and Budget] for the president’s budget, agency heads shall submit an Equity Action Plan to the Steering Committee.”
Among the equity action plans will be one to “include actions to advance equity” pursuant to June 2022’s Executive Order on Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals.
The order reflects a growing recognition among lawmakers and policymakers of the need to address systemic racism and inequality in the United States. The Biden administration has made equity and social justice a priority, with the president frequently speaking out on issues of racial justice and equity.
The executive order comes amid ongoing debates over issues such as voting rights, police reform, and immigration. These debates have highlighted the deep divides in American society.