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American flags and a pride flag hang from the White House during a Pride Month celebration on the South Lawn, June 10, 2023, in Washington. (AP) American flags and a pride flag hang from the White House during a Pride Month celebration on the South Lawn, June 10, 2023, in Washington. (AP)

American flags and a pride flag hang from the White House during a Pride Month celebration on the South Lawn, June 10, 2023, in Washington. (AP)

Grace Abels
By Grace Abels June 18, 2024

If Your Time is short

  • President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump both support same-sex marriage, although their views on the issue have evolved over the years.

  • Biden has pushed to expand open LGBTQ+ participation in the military; Trump has pushed to ban transgender military participation.

  • Biden supports youth access to gender-affirming care; Trump has vowed to limit it.

President Biden kicked off Pride Month this year with a message to LGBTQ+ Americans, posting "your president and my entire Administration have your back."

Former President Trump has been quiet on social media when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues and railed against trans women’s participation in sports at a recent campaign rally in Vegas.

If it wasn’t already clear, these top two presidential candidates hold distinct views on LGBTQ+ issues.

Throughout his presidency, Biden has used his office to express support for LGBTQ+ people, celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility and Pride Month, and regularly make social media calls about the issues LGBTQ+ people face. His administration has worked to establish antidiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as greater access to gender-affirming care.

As a result, he has earned the endorsement of major LGBTQ+ advocacy groups such as the Human Rights Campaign.

Trump’s record includes dismantling discrimination protections and placing restrictions on transgender servicemembers.

LGBTQ+ issues were a small part of Trump’s presidency, but his 2020 campaign included "Trump Pride'' outreach targeting LGBTQ+ supporters. In 2020, Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBTQ+ conservatives, endorsed him. The group cited Trump administration programs that addressed the ongoing HIV epidemic and a campaign to end worldwide criminalization of homosexuality. Trump also appointed the first openly gay cabinet secretary, Richard Grenell, who served as acting director of national intelligence.

Although Trump has been more accepting on some LGBTQ+ issues than his Republican counterparts, most of his stances, especially regarding transgender Americans, stand in stark contrast to Biden’s.

Marriage equality

Both Trump and Biden had evolved on the issue of marriage equality before arriving at a similar stance that supports gay rights. 

Biden first publicly declared his support for same-sex marriage in a 2012 ‘Meet the Press" appearance, saying that marriages "at their root are about" love "whether they are marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals."

In December 2022, Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act, federally recognizing same-sex and interracial marriages, and creating legal protections if the Supreme Court were to overturn its 2015 precedent on marriage equality. Across his administration, several departments including the State Department, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration, updated policies to extend benefits to same-sex couples

And although Biden has suggested he supported gay couples since his youth, his earlier policy decisions reflect otherwise. As a U.S. senator in 1996, Biden voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. In his 2008 vice presidential campaign, Biden expressed his support for equal benefits for same-sex couples, but not for legal marriage. 

In interviews prior to his presidency, Trump opposed same-sex marriage and said he supported "traditional marriage." In 2016, he said he would consider appointing justices who would overturn the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S., but changed his position shortly after he was elected when he described the issue as "settled."

 Advocating for or against same-sex marriage was not a significant part of Trump’s presidency or political platform, which, as some noted, set him apart from other Republicans at the time.

LGBTQ+ members of the military

Biden has implemented policies allowing LGBTQ+ people to serve openly in the military. Trump aimed to restrict military participation by trans people. 

In a July 2017 tweet, Trump declared that "the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military." This policy aimed to reverse a 2016 Obama era policy allowing trans people to serve openly.

In 2023, Trump claimed that he "banned transgender" people from serving in the military, and we rated it Mostly True. That’s because after his policy was announced, it faced numerous legal challenges that delayed its implementation. In April 2019, the ban went into effect allowing active transgender members to serve openly only if they had already received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Active members who received a diagnosis after the policy’s implementation date would have to serve under the sex assigned to them at birth. And people diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who had already undergone a transition could not enlist.

This policy continued until January 2021, when Biden rescinded it in an executive order a few days after taking office, and the policy allowing military participation was published by the Defense Department in March 2021. Biden’s administration has also overseen an expansion of support for trans veterans and provided gender-affirming medical care for service members. 

Trump has promised to reinstate a "ban" on transgender people in the military if he is reelected.

That said, Biden’s current stance on LGBTQ+ members of the military represents a slight shift from his earlier years as a lawmaker. In 1993, he ended up voting in favor of a defense spending bill even though it implemented the "don’t ask don’t tell" policy requiring LGBTQ+ service members not to disclose their sexual orientation and prohibiting officers from asking. 

During Biden’s tenure as vice president, President Barack Obama signed a law repealing  "don’t ask, don’t tell," a decision Biden has celebrated

Access to gender-affirming care for youth

Trump opposes youth access to gender-affirming care. Biden supports it. 

In videos outlining his 2024 presidential agenda, Trump described gender-affirming care as "chemical, physical, and emotional mutilation" of youth and promised to end all "programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age." He also advocated revoking Medicaid and Medicare funding from any hospital or health care provider that gives gender-affirming care to minors.

Trump also said he would ask Congress to pass a law "prohibiting child sexual mutilation in all 50 states." This year, Congress entertained several bills to ban gender-affirming care for youth nationally, but none became law. Experts told PolitiFact that it is inaccurate to characterize gender-affirming surgeries as "mutilation."

Biden’s administration has shown more support for youth access to gender-affirming care, most often expressed by cabinet members and spokespeople. In an executive order, Biden banned conversion therapy in federally funded programs, and the Justice Department sent a letter to all state attorneys general calling discriminatory the practice of restricting access to gender-affirming care. 

In March 2022, Biden released his own statement after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state officials to launch child abuse investigations into reports of transgender kids receiving gender-affirming care. In it, Biden called for expanded access to gender-affirming care for trans youth and cited the support of most major medical organizations. Later that month on Transgender Day of Visibility, the White House released a fact-sheet detailing the administration’s efforts to support access to mental and medical health care for trans youth.

Addressing LGBTQ+ discrimination

Biden has urged federal agencies to implement greater antidiscrimination protections, and Trump’s administration was criticized as dismantling them

Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, pages related to LGBTQ+ issues began disappearing from federal agency websites, The Washington Post reported. In early 2017, Trump issued an executive order making Obama-era LGBTQ+ workplace discrimination rules more difficult to enforce and the Education Department revoked guidance that required schools to let trans students use the bathroom of their choice.

In 2019, the Trump-era Justice Department filed a Supreme Court brief arguing against the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It represented a departure from Trump’s comments in a 2000 interview in which he said he supported amending the law to include sexual orientation.

Many of Biden’s policies have been a reversal of Trump’s.

On Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order directing each federal agency to review and revise its policies to ensure they did not discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation in light of a 2020 Supreme Court case

Several federal agencies responded, releasing guidance, and in some cases, formal regulations clarifying that "sex discrimination" includes discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Biden has also repeatedly called for the passage of The Equality Act, which would add protections specific to LGBTQ+ people to the Civil Rights Act. Biden has also spoken out against anti-LGBTQ+ violence. 

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