Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ win in the presidential election will certainly mark a turning point in how LGBTIQ communities in the United States have been treated by their own government over the past four years, ILGA World said today.

Such a shift is more urgent than ever, and is poised to also have an impact on the global LGBTIQ human rights movement.

“This presidential election is putting an end to four years of a Trump administration, which has done all in its power to strip marginalised communities of the limited protections they have had”, said Kimberly Frost and Stephen Seaborn, co-Chairs of the regional group ILGA North America and the Caribbean. “Now it is time to mend a deeply-divided nation, start healing, and build back protections for those who have been harmed by the US government’s actions and inaction”.

The stakes are high for LGBTIQ people in the United States, and for society as a whole. “This has been the deadliest year on record for trans people in the country. Covid-19 has supercharged existing inequalities. Our rights are being constantly questioned on the grounds of a ‘religious freedom’ that has nothing to do with faith. And the US judicial system has progressively been  filled with more conservative judges. All of this, and more, is cause of great concern. We must remain vigilant”, Frost and Seaborn said.

Encouraging signs of increased diversity in elected officials have emerged from the polls with a record number of at least 117 LGBTQ candidates on the ballot that have won, in a so-called ‘rainbow wave’ that saw some historic firsts.

We congratulate all LGBTQ persons who have won hard-fought battles in their electorates,” said Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown, Co-Secretaries General of ILGA World. “Trust in abilities rather than SOGIE status is so important, and has resulted in a high-level visibility of LGBTIQ persons – those who are usually invisible to the public. This says a lot about how far the American voting public has come. We hope that these rainbow warriors will now use their position to bring careful listening and action to the needs of our communities and others, and push for respectful and inclusive policies to protect them.”

A shift in laws, policies and public attitudes towards LGBTIQ people in the United States is poised to have a ripple effect well beyond its borders.

“We look forward to the U.S. government making LGBTIQ human rights a priority at home and abroad again,” continued Aranda and Brown. “The administration-elect has the capacity to lead by example, but it also has the resources to foster meaningful inclusion, initiate long-term systemic change, and improve conditions on the ground.”

Judging from the first declarations, a change in the public discourse is already happening.  Trans persons were acknowledged for the first time in a US President-elect’s victory speech. Biden has vowed to pass the Equality Act during his first 100  days in office. More of this will be needed to mark a change from the outgoing administration in the clearest of terms.

“Over the past four years, LGBTIQ persons worldwide have been subject to increased hate that has been unleashed in copy-cat imitation of the poor presidential leadership in the United States,” said André du Plessis, Executive Director at ILGA World. “They have experienced first-hand what happens when society is encouraged to bully, shame, mock, harm and belittle others who are different. The citizens of the United States have this week voted – albeit closely – to reject this kind of leadership.”

The planet is crying-out for more compassionate, mature, visionary, unifying, proactive and empathetic leaders, and we now look to President-elect Biden and Vice-President elect Harris to be an example.