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Equity-Based Executive Actions: An Overview

By Philine Fleck, Graduate Assistant and MBA Candidate

The presidential seal with blue curtains in background

Since his inauguration on January 20th, 2021, president Joe Biden has signed 52 executive orders (EO). 10 of these orders, including the category of corrections or clerical memos, pertained to the topic of equity. Many of these orders aim to review previously established policies and incorporate a method of accountability to ensure compliance with updated standards. 

Using the Presidential Actions section of the White House website and a CNN article, the following themes emerged among the executive orders.

  • Gender equity (4 orders)
  • Racial equity (5 orders)
  • Tribal relations

The following is an overview of each of the 10 executive orders and their areas of impact.

Gender Equity:

Establishment of the White House Gender Policy Council (EO 14020)

  • This council is tasked with designing a government-wide plan outlining action items to ‘advance gender equity and equality in the United States and around the world’. 

Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free From Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity (EO 14021)

  • With this order, the Secretary of Education is tasked with reviewing all department policies and actions and locating those that are not in line with ‘an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including discrimination in the form of sexual harassment.’ This will expand the scope to include sexual violence as well as discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Enabling All Qualified Americans to Serve Their Country in Uniform (EO 14004)

  • This EO was a direct reversal of the previous administration’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military. The former administrations’ argument for the exclusion of transgender people in the military was that treating dysphoria would be too expensive for the military health insurance to cover. Now all people have the right to serve their country¹.

Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation (EO 13988)

  • The original legislation is based on protection against discrimination on the basis of race or disability. This order extends that to also include gender identity or sexual orientation. This provides federal protection for those that live in states such as Idaho, where similar statewide legislation does not exist.  

Racial Equity:

Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government (EO 13985)

  • This was one of president Biden’s first executive orders and it revoked the previous administration’s 1776 Commission which promoted ‘patriotic education’, particularly demoting that the founding story was based on race and slavery. The order also calls for a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, and tasks agencies with reviewing their systems, programs, and policies to address undue barriers to opportunity². 

Reforming Our Incarceration System to Eliminate the Use of Privately Operated Criminal Detention Facilities (EO 14006)

  • This order solicits the Attorney General not to renew the federal contracts with all private prisons. Through reducing profit-based incentives to incarceration, the focus will be on prioritizing rehabilitation and redemption, ensuring that the time spent in prison prepares individuals for the next steps in their lives. Furthermore, this order aims to highlight and reduce the disproportionate effect of the system on the BIPOC population³.

Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States (Memorandum)

  • This memorandum acknowledges the rise in discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and it tasks the Department of Health and Human Services with providing guidance on best practice implementations geared towards cultural competency and language access. It also tasks the Department of Justice to partner with the AAPI communities to prevent harassment and hate crimes.

Redressing Our Nation’s and the Federal Government’s History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies (Memorandum)

  • This memorandum acknowledges the U.S.’s history with racial discrimination in housing, which played a critical role in widening the racial wealth gap, and tasks the Department of Housing and Urban Development with the review of all rules and regulations in regards to fair housing. From there,  if needed, correctional steps will be taken to comply with the Fair Housing Act. 

Promoting Access to Voting (EO 14019)

  • This order is two-fold:  1.) The General Services Administration is tasked with reviewing, updating, and therefore improving the website, and  2.) Each agency must submit a strategic plan outlining opportunities and offer expanded access for voter registration and participation. The goal is to eliminate voter suppression tactics, specifically those geared towards people of color, young or elderly people, or people with disabilities. Furthermore, counties with larger minority populations tend to have fewer polling sites and poll workers per voter. A nationwide barrier to voting is the requirement of voter registration long before an election, because it poses an unnecessary burden on the right to vote⁴

Tribal Relations:

Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships (Memorandum)

  • This memorandum requests that the enactors of any federal policy with Tribal implications should ‘engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with Tribal governments’ to strengthen the Nation-to-Nation relationship. This is part of the federal governments’ commitment to ensuring tribal sovereignty and consultation.

While there is still a lot of work to be done in the realm of equity, these 10 orders that President Biden has signed within his first 50 days in office have taken big steps in the right direction. The Blue Sky Institute team looks forward to the future growth of equity-based work and envisions an Idaho that is a welcoming, inclusive place of prosperity for all people.