Equality March for Unity and Pride participants march past the White House in Washington in 2017. Under the Biden administration agencies are recognizing LGBTQ+ employees.

Equality March for Unity and Pride participants march past the White House in Washington in 2017. Under the Biden administration agencies are recognizing LGBTQ+ employees. Carolyn Kaster / AP file photo

Agencies Recognize LGBTQ+ Employees During Pride Month

This fits into the Biden administration’s overall goal of advancing equity and diversity. 

Since Pride Month started on Tuesday, many federal agencies have been taking the opportunity to recognize their LGBTQ+ employees and share how they are advancing equity in their respective missions. 

“This Pride Month, we recognize the valuable contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals across America, and we reaffirm our commitment to standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ Americans in their ongoing struggle against discrimination and injustice,” said a proclamation President Biden issued on Tuesday. “Nearly 14% of my 1,500 agency appointees identify as LGBTQ+, and I am particularly honored by the service of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve in the Cabinet, and Assistant Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate.” 

Kathleen McGettigan, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, said in a communication this week to the OPM workforce, shared with Government Executive: “I'm honored to serve at OPM, where we work hard to ensure LGBTQ+ federal employees and retirees receive fair treatment and equal access to benefits. Our LGBTQ+ employees add valuable experiences and unique perspectives to the OPM family, enabling us to better serve the greater federal workforce and American people.”

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a briefing on Tuesday that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is “proud that one of his first actions after being sworn in was to implement President Biden's directive to ensure that all transgender individuals who wish to serve and who can meet the appropriate standards to be able to do so openly and free from discrimination.” Additionally, Austin has directed the department to promote and protect LGBTQ+ human rights around the world, said Kirby. 

Kirby told reporters on Friday that after a review the Pentagon decided to continue the ban on flying Pride flags on military installations, Military Times reported. This was enacted last year by then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper following calls to ban the Confederate flag in military offices and communal housing areas. He banned all unofficial flags from being flown at installations. 

“After some careful consideration, the department will maintain the existing policy from July of 2020 regarding the display or depiction of unofficial flags,”  Kirby said. “So there won’t be an exception made this month for the Pride flag.” This was really more about possible "other challenges that could arise from that exception," he added. 

“During #PrideMonth, we acknowledge the contributions of the LGBTQIA+ community to America's history,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. “I am grateful for the members of [Commerce’s] LGBTQIA+ community and their commitment to creating opportunities & economic growth for everyone.” 

Deanne Criswell, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, said in a statement, “celebrating FEMA’s diverse workforce helps us advance the agency’s core values of compassion, fairness, integrity and respect” and "we take these values very seriously because it ensures we embrace the humanity, dignity and worth of those we serve before, during and after a disaster.”

She also said throughout June the Pride flag “will have a prominent position in FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center, a first for the agency.” 

Similarly, a fact-sheet from the White House on Tuesday pointed out that the State Department now allows U.S. diplomatic outposts to fly the Pride flag on the same flagpole as the U.S. flag, reversing a decision from the Trump administration. 

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tweeted on Wednesday that for the first time ever the department is flying the Pride flag. 

“Throughout the Department of Energy, members of the LGBTQ+ community are our neighbors, friends, family and colleagues, and world-leading scientists,” she said. “Regrettably, still today, they are underrepresented in our workforce, in the broader scientific community, and face discrimination across our country.” Nevertheless, “we’re humbled by the triumphs of the trailblazers that came before, and at Energy we’re fighting to ensure that the clean energy future we’re striving for is an equitable one.” 

The U.S. Agency for International Development “champions the human rights of LGBTQ+ people and seeks to protect them from discrimination, stigma, criminalization, and violence” as well as “strives to integrate considerations of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics across its development and humanitarian programs,” building on a memo from Biden issued in February, the agency said in a press release

“USAID also recognizes that our organization and staff must lead by example,” it said. “We are committed to a workplace that values diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect for all LGBTQ+ staff, as articulated on the first day of the Biden-Harris Administration by an executive order.” 

A non-exhaustive list of offices and top officials that have released statements includes the Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Labor, State, Veterans Affairs, HHS, Education, Transportation and Interior departments, U.S. Surgeon General, General Services Administration, White House Gender Policy Council, Environmental Protection Agency and FBI

According to the 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (which had a 44.3% response rate), about 95% of the federal workforce identified as straight, 2% gay or lesbian, 1% bisexual and 1% something else. Separately, less than 1% identified as transgender. 

OPM first started asking about sexual orientation in 2012 and those results (that had a 46.1% response rate) showed that about 87% identified as straight, 2.2% as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and 10.8% preferred not to say. (It should be noted that transgender is a gender identity not sexual orientation). 

Nationwide, Gallup estimated in February that about 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as LGBT, which is up from 4.5% in 2017. 

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation found in a 2018 national study that 46% of LGBTQ employees said they are closeted at work, down from 50% in 2008. 

Besides Pride Month, the Biden administration has been putting forth many policies and practices to support the LGBTQ+ community in and out of the government.

Under the Trump administration, DOJ Pride, a group that represents LGBTQ employees and their allies, raised concerns about the stance the department was taking in several cases, fearing for their own jobs; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was banned from using “transgender” and other terms in budget documents; the Interior Department removed references to LGBTQ employees in workplace discrimination guidance; and there were “significant, but uneven shifts toward more inclusive identity language” on federal websites, according to a report

While the Trump administration received much criticism for these policies and others, the entire LGBTQ+ community has not been completely anti-Trump.

For example, Robert Kabel, chairman of Log Cabin Republicans, the nation’s largest Republican organization advocating for LGBT conservatives and allies, wrote in USA Today last August, “thanks in large part to the leadership of President Donald Trump, the [Republican] party has delivered meaningful policy victories for gays and lesbians.” Then in October, NBC News reported on Trump's LGBTQ base and why members were supporting him in the 2020 election. 

Update: This article has been updated with the news on Friday from the Defense Department regarding the flying of the Pride flag.