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'Our Work Is Just Starting': 12 LGBTQ Artists Talk America's Future Under Biden-Harris

11/13/2020

On the evening of November 7, 2020, president-elect Joe Biden made American history during his victory speech. “I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history,” he said. Biden acknowledged different political ideologies, ages, races and demographics and then thanked his supporters who identified as “gay, straight, transgender.”

With those words, Biden became the first president-elect to acknowledge transgender Americans in a victory speech. He became the second to acknowledge gay Americans, following president Barack Obama’s use of the word in his 2008 victory speech.

“Joe Biden is a fantastic ally and champion for the queer community. He's made a big, positive impression with the LGBTQ community of voters," says Jennifer Fiore, senior vice president of communications and marketing for Human Rights Campaign. "He is really walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”

In the 2020 presidential election, LGBTQ voters were a key factor in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris' victory over President Donald Trump. According to Andrew Flores, an assistant professor of government at American University and a visiting scholar at UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute (a research center specializing in sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy), LGBTQ voters made up a record percentage of this year's electorate. "Regardless of what source you examine, turnout among LGBT voters was either way up, or a larger share of the electorate identified as LGBT than is prior years," he tells Billboard. "Estimates of 2020 suggest that 8 to 11 percent of voters identified as LGBT, far higher than prior years where it was 3 to 5 percent."

Christy Mallory, the legal director at UCLA's Williams Institute, tells Billboard she wasn't surprised to see such massive turnout from the LGBTQ community, largely in support of Biden and Harris. "President-elect Biden has this very developed platform for advancing LGBTQ equality; definitely the most comprehensive we've seen from any presidential nominee, and any elected president," she says. "It addresses so many areas where LGBT people continue to face disparities and hardships, and where the law hasn't advanced yet to fully protect them from discrimination."

With a Biden administration on the horizon, many in the LGBTQ community are eagerly anticipating how the administration will tackle important issues within the community, including undoing the Trump administration's rollbacks of transgender rightspassing the Equality Act, and instituting federal protections for queer, trans and non-binary Americans.

"There's a lot of ways that a Biden administration could move the needle forward, even if Congress doesn't," Mallory explains. Should Democrats fail to take control of Congress in the two upcoming Georgia runoff elections, she says, the Biden administration could advise all federal agencies to use the Supreme Court's Bostock v. Clayton County decision to provide hundreds of protections for LGBTQ Americans under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

"Artists and celebrities who align themselves with political candidates do so because they know there is more to their work than just the art," Fiore says. "There is a political impact with what they do, and they have a tremendous impact with communities that, when mobilized effectively, can sway elections."

Billboard chatted with 12 LGBTQ artists about the future of America under a Biden-Harris administration. Below, Billy Porter, Big Freedia, Shea Diamond and others discuss their reactions to Biden and Harris' victory, the policies they would like to see put in place under the new administration, and what their fans can do in the meantime to make their voices heard.

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“I was waiting with bated breath all weekend and was so excited on Saturday when the race had been called. I was in Washington DC by coincidence and was so delighted to see people immediately taking to the streets. I was getting my breakfast at the restaurant and heard people screaming and hollering, it took me a while to figure out what it was but obviously I joined in right away.

“I think the list [of potential policies] is long, especially after everything we've experienced in 2020, but addressing the pandemic is paramount. At the same time, health care and the economy are obviously high up on the list and are all interconnected. Another important issue is addressing voter suppression and gerrymandering, closing some of the loopholes that allow the politicians to engage in activities that are against the best interest of the people in this country. I hope folks will continue to have the uncomfortable but very important conversations that will push this over the edge to true Equality.”