US President Biden Issues Memorandum on Advancing the Rights of LGBTQI Persons Around the World


5 February 2021

Media Contact: Daina Ruduša,, +1 917 622 1865

US President Biden Issues Memorandum on Advancing the Rights of LGBTQI Persons Around the World

During a speech at the US State Department on 4 February 2021, US President Joe Biden announced a Presidential Memorandum on advancing the rights of LGBTIQ people.  

The memorandum, issued later the same evening, unequivocally states that, “it shall be the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and to lead by the power of our example in the cause of advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world.” It directs all departments and agencies involved in diplomacy and foreign assistance to combat criminalization of same-sex relations, protect LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers, and combat violence and discrimination. The memorandum outlines concrete actions agencies should take, including working with like-minded nations and international organizations to advance LGBTQI equality.

Executive Director of OutRight Action International, Jessica Stern, comments:

We celebrate the arrival of President Biden’s presidential memorandum advancing the rights of LGBTQI people globally, its timing indicating that LGBTQI equality is a foreign policy priority from the earliest days of his administration.  

We appreciate its affirmation and expansion of its 2011 predecessor, for the first time naming discrimination based on ‘gender expression’ and ‘sex characteristics’, including ‘queer’ and ‘intersex’ rights, and recognizing violence by non-state actors as central to the policy’s scope of concern. We take note that the memorandum instructs all US agencies engaged abroad and/or with foreign assistance to actively expand their work for LGBTQI equality, work that still has far to go. We appreciate the potential for LGBTQI asylum seekers and refugees to be eligible for priority referrals along with other marginalized groups. We welcome its instruction to strengthen bilateral and multilateral engagement with these issues, recognizing the need especially to support LGBTQI civil society in such spaces. We also appreciate that agencies are instructed to see this memorandum as the foundation on which they must build additional actions and look forward to the annual reporting on progress, now to be made public for the first time. 

All governments should explicitly include LGBTQI rights as domestic and foreign policy priorities, but unfortunately most do not. May this policy be the floor not the ceiling, be fully funded and implemented, and inspire other governments to protect LGBTQI people with a holistic strategy based on the principle of dignity. OutRight welcomes the Presidential Memorandum, and we intend to hold the Administration accountable for translating it into action.




OutRight Action International works at a global, regional and national level to eradicate the persecution, inequality, and violence lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) people face around the world. From its offices in 7 countries and headquarters in New York, OutRight builds capacity of LGBTIQ movements, documents human rights violations, advocates for inclusion and equality, and holds leaders accountable for protecting the rights of LGBTIQ people everywhere. OutRight has recognized consultative status at the United Nations.