Biden Moves Against Republican States Attacking LGBTQ Rights

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden issued an executive order Wednesday to stymie what what his administration calls discriminatory legislative attacks on the LGBTQ community by Republican-controlled states, declaring before a signing ceremony packed with activists, “pride is back at the White House.”

The order seeks to discourage “conversion therapy” — a discredited practice that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — while also promoting gender-affirming surgery and expanding foster care protections for gay and transgender parents and children.

Biden stated that the order taps money already available to federal agencies and does not require new funding. He said it is intended to combat 300+ anti-LGBTQ legislations passed by states in the last year. New policies will be developed by the Department of Health and Human Services to provide more care for LGBTQ families. The Education Department will also develop rules that will better protect LGBTQ students at public schools.

Learn more What Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Could Mean for LGBTQ Kids

The president, first lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended a crowded reception in the White House’s East Room, where the adjacent hallway was decorated in rainbow colors. The event was attended by LGBTQ activists, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, other members in Congress, top officials from the administration, such as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (who adopted two twins with Chasten) and others.

The gathering is part of the Biden administration’s recognition of Pride Month.

“All of you in this room know better than anyone that these attacks are real and consequential for real families,” the president said before sitting to sign the order. He cited the recent arrest of 31 members from the white supremacist group Patriot Front in Idaho, near an event celebrating Idaho’s pride.

The order lists actions that aim to strengthen programs that address the suicide problem among LGBTQ children. They also seek to facilitate adoptions for LGBTQ parents.

In some U.S. States, LGBTQ rights are under threat

“It shouldn’t take courage to be yourself,” said Jill Biden. “We know that, in places across the country like Florida or Texas or Alabama, rights are under attack. And we know that in small towns and big cities, prejudice, and discrimination still lurk.”

Among the state laws the White House has opposed is the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” measure in Florida, which was signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it in March. It prohibits teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity at kindergarten through the third grade. Critics claim it discriminates against LGBTQ persons, prompting a public dispute between the Walt Disney Co. and the state.

On June 12, 2022, Pride Parade attendees can be seen in Hollywood.

David McNew/Getty Images

Biden’s action creates a federal working group to help combat LGBTQ homeless and one promoting educational policies for states and school districts that encourage inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ children. He also established new rules to discourage conversion therapy. However, efforts to enforce it where the law permits will be challenged from the outside.

Some Republican-led legislatures support conversion therapy. However, some states and communities ban it. The American Psychological Association says conversion therapy is not based on science and is harmful to a participant’s mental health.

Health officials are also directed to make it clear that federally funded programs can’t be used to pay for conversion therapy. It also seeks to reduce barriers in health care, and to provide certain treatment options for LGBTQ people.

Learn more Alabama’s Wave of Anti-LGBTQ Legislation Could Have National Consequences

It follows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s February order directing Texas’ child welfare agency to investigate reports of gender-confirming care for kids as abuse. An order of restraining was issued by a judge, which halted the investigations in three families and prohibited others.

“We have a lot more work to do,” Biden said. “In Texas, knocking on front doors to harass and investigate parents who are raising transgender children. In Florida, going after Mickey Mouse for God’s sake.”

Biden had previously issued orders directing that transgender and gay people be protected against discrimination at school, work, and in health care. Biden directed federal agencies to amend and extend regulations against sexual discrimination, to include gender identity and sexual orientation. He also reversed the ban on transgender individuals serving in military units.

Biden also reiterated Wednesday his call for Congress to approve the Equality Act. This would change existing civil rights laws to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected characteristics. The measure has been stalled on Capitol Hill but the president said it’s necessary to “enshrine the long overdue civil rights protections of all Americans, every American.”

This report was contributed by Aamer Madhani, an associate press writer.

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