President Joe Biden’s first day in office was a mixed bag for social conservatives. The Democratic president drew praise from many across the political aisle for an aspirational call to national unity and healing during his inaugural address, and later was criticized for quickly undoing many of the executive actions of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Biden’s executive orders were expected, coming after the inauguration and a visit to Arlington National Cemetery with first lady Jill Biden and ex-presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
During his 21-minute inaugural address from the steps of the Capitol, where just two weeks prior an election protest turned violent and resulted in five deaths, Biden, 78, called the country to “come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.”
“We look ahead in our uniquely American way—restless, bold, optimistic—and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.”
Noting the “resilience of our Constitution and the strength of our nation” and appealing to our “better angels,” Biden said of the task before him, “My whole soul is in it.”
“History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity,” said Biden. “We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.
“For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward. And, we must meet this moment as the United States of America.”
Franklin Graham said on Facebook: “I appreciated the conciliatory words of President Joe Biden today, urging both parties to work together. If the Democrats go ahead with pushing for the impeachment of a president who has left office, it would only further divide our nation. I hope President Biden will stand up to those on Capitol Hill who want to impeach Donald Trump and tell them to put this behind us. If he wants to unite the country, this would be a huge step forward. I encourage everyone to pray for him.”
After leaving the presidential motorcade to walk the final few blocks to the White House on Wednesday afternoon, Biden headed to the Oval Office, where he quickly began signing executive orders and directives, part of a 10-day endeavor to fast-track many of his policy initiatives and undoing many of those put in place by the executive orders of his predecessor.
In all, Biden signed 17 executive orders on Thursday, including one that Christians and other conservatives were watching closely.
The Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation appeals to last year’s Bostick v. Clayton County Supreme Court case placing gender identity and sexual orientation within the category of sex discrimination under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.
In addition to having potentially sweeping implications for faith-based groups, the order is expected to lead to a written Obama-era guidance against discrimination of LGBTQ people in public education. Specifically, it would compel public schools to allow transgender students to use bathroom and changing facilities and compete in athletics according to their gender identity. That directive to public schools from the Obama Justice and Education departments in 2016 drew a rash of lawsuits. It was reversed by President Trump in 2017.
The Biden executive order gives all federal agencies 100 days to review existing policies for compliance with the new executive order.
Tony Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, warned that the Biden executive order would encroach on the rights of faith-based organizations that offer crucial social services.
“Now, those who hold to biological reality and the doctrines of the world’s major religions will be forced to violate their consciences, or even lose a government contract,” Perkins said. “Ultimately, if this executive order is able to be fully carried out, it will affect everyday Americans who hold Biblical and conservative values. In his inauguration speech yesterday, President Biden called for unity, but he is now demanding uniformity. …
“Sadly, the Biden administration is planning to go much further in its assault on biological reality and is expected to order schools to abolish girls’ sports and force boys and girls to use the same showers and locker rooms, and maybe even bunk together on school trips.
“The party that claims to be the party of science is advancing policies on Day One that deny reality,” Perkins said.
Other Day One executive orders included re-entering the Paris Climate Accords; a 100-day face-covering order for federal facilities and interstate travel to combat coronavirus spread; extended relief for student loan holders and renters facing eviction because of COVID-19; and work permits and protection from deportation for undocumented “dreamers” who met standards set by the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act in 2012.
Over his first 10 days, Biden is also expected to sign directives revoking two other Trump executive actions—the military’s transgender ban, and the Mexico City Policy on abortion that blocks U.S. aid to foreign organizations that perform abortions or refer patients for abortion.