This week the nation felt a distinct political shift as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took office. Within hours of taking on his new role, Biden signed 17 executive orders taking steps to loosen immigration restrictions, fight climate change, ramp up the nation’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, expand LGBTQ protections and more. And he is set to sign 30 executive orders before the first three days of his administration are up.
As industrious as Biden’s first week has been, it’s commonly held that the first 100 days of a president’s administration will set the tone for the entire four-year term. That’s why the Biden campaign team issued surrogate Reggie Greer to talk to Detroit’s LGBTQ community the day before the inauguration about the next three months of the presidency. He made mention of the fact that even before his inauguration, Biden exhibited LGBTQ-inclusive policy when his administration nominated Dr. Rachel Levine to be secretary of health.
“That’s just an indication that this president is going to make not only historic picks that make history but let people in positions so that we have competency and reasonable people serving the government, because that’s what we deserve,” Greer said. “The LGBTQ community gives me a lot of excitement here. There’s a lot of buckets that the administration will take on. We will see these policies rolled out under these things: economic justice, racial equity, climate equity, and, obviously, COVID-19. If those are your four pillars, then you can think about sort of different plans under those buckets now.”
He sat on a panel of LGBTQ community leaders at LGBT Detroit Mobilization, the political arm of Detroit community center, and was joined by LGBT Detroit’s own Social Outreach Coordinator Jerron Totten and Counselor and Community Advocate Chunnika Hodges. Activist Bishop Herman Starks joined them as well.
The meeting began with community questions directed toward the local panelists. While they covered various topics, most notably they were asked about the key areas where they’d like to see the Biden Administration make change. Starks listed mass incarceration and criminal justice, Hodges urged a focus on education and targeted research on historically disadvantaged minority groups, and Totten mentioned racial justice.
Totten also made a note that he is hopeful that Biden will surround himself with progressive staff and team members, calling on the fact that many who did not vote for Biden or hesitated in doing so were concerned that he was not progressive enough.
“Joe Biden has never claimed to be, nor is he the progressive that we looked to get us out of the mess that we’re in. I know he’s capable; I’m a fan of Joe Biden, he’s my former boss. However, I think simple things should happen,” Totten said. “… My hope is that Joe Biden will surround himself with people who are a little more progressive than he is on these issues and they will, in turn, influence some of the decision-making in this administration from Congress to his advisors to his cabinet. Additionally, I’m really just here to point out how we owe Black women in this country a great debt.”
Totten then cited the significant amount of grassroots work done by Black women during the campaigning process for the 2020 election. After the community Q&A portion of the meeting was finished, Greer made statements about the Biden Administration’s upcoming work regarding U.S. minorities. He said that it will be a good thing that “no community will be siloed.”
“We’re talking about justice and equity for Black Americans, for Latinos, for API [Asian Pacific Islander] folks, people with disabilities, people living with HIV, or LGBTQ+ people. [We’re] going to be ensuring that all those issues are going to be … intersectional across government so that people are able to see themselves in a myriad of policies,” Greer said.
Greer then listed passing the Equality Act, ending conversion therapy, inclusive gender markers, rescinding the transgender military ban as administration priorities. He also noted that the presidential advisory council on HIV/AIDS will be reinstated with a focus on diversity along the lines of race, gender, sexual orientation and identity, and geographical alignment.
“We’re going to mandate that all government agencies take equality and make it a priority throughout their work in these next four years,” Greer said. “So, LGBTQ+ people that didn’t have a voice at the table cannot be more excited for this moment. We’ve worked so hard to be here, so let’s celebrate tomorrow, but then let’s get to work because we have a lot of work to do.”