President Joe Biden condemned violence against transgender Americans and the wave of legislation targeting LGBT+ people before signing an executive order to bolster anti-discrimination measures and suicide prevention efforts.
During the president’s second annual Pride event at the White House, the president criticised an “ultra MAGA” campaign of discriminatory measures – including more than 300 state-level bills filed by Republican legislators, mostly aimed at eliminating transgender healthcare and prohibiting transgender athletes from school sports – as well as efforts from Texas authorities to prosecute families of transgender children for child abuse and Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education Act,” what opponents have called the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“In Florida, going after Mickey Mouse, for God’s sake,” said the president, alluding to Republican-led efforts to strip Walt Disney World of its governing authority after the company publicly rebuked the law.
“These attacks are real and consequential for real families,” he said.
The president was introduced by Florida 18-year-old Javier Gomez, who helped stage walkouts at his Florida high school to protest the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans classroom discussion about “sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students” in other grades.
Opponents have warned that the legislation’s broad language – and enforcement through civil actions against teachers and schools for perceived violations – will chill classroom speech and how students learn about LGBT+ people, history and events, or their families, or themselves, and raises questions about how students can discuss any of those issues without potential lawsuits.
He said the acceptance of his openly gay fifth-grade teacher “created a classroom that made me feel welcomed.”
“I fear students in Florida and across the country will not be able to get the same support because of hateful legislation,” he said. “My presence here is testament that we are fighting back … Because our lives are glorious, beautiful and worthy. We deserve respect and love. Until we have that we will continue to fight for liberation. … I’m fighting for the next little Javier so he doesn’t have to cry himself to sleep every night hoping he wakes up normal.”
In his message to young LGBT+ Americans, the president said: “Just be you. You are loved. You are heard. You are understood. You do belong. I want you to know as your president, all of us on this stage have your back.”
He urged members of Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would expand federal anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, education and other programmes.
The bill passed the Democratically controlled House of Representatives but has languished in the deadlocked Senate.
Mr Biden signed a sweeping executive order that directs the US Department of Health and Human Services to help states expand access to healthcare for LGBT+ Americans and orders the Department of Education to study the impacts of state laws on LGBT+ young people and draft inclusive school policies.
The order also directs the Health Department to clarify that federally funded programmes cannot support “conversion therapy” efforts and ensure that US aid is not used to support the practice elsewhere.
His order also supporters suicide prevention programmes and direct federal agencies to study barriers to federal programmes and benefits, as well as the disparate impacts LGBT+ people face in housing, foster care, the criminal justice system, healthcare and in schools.