Biden bashes Florida, Texas bills targeting LGBT youth

President Joe Biden addresses the AFL-CIO convention, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Philadelphia.
Susan Walsh/Associated Press
President Joe Biden addresses the AFL-CIO convention, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Philadelphia.

President Biden on Wednesday bashed Florida and Texas for state laws that target LGBT youth, calling them discriminatory at a celebration of Pride Month at the White House.

“I don’t have to tell you about the ultra-MAGA agenda attacking families and our freedoms,” he said, noting that “300 discriminatory bills” where introduced in conservative states.

State bills in Florida and Texas have banned discussion in elementary schools about gender and sexual orientation and restricted access to health care for transgender youth, respectively.

“In Texas, knocking on front doors harassing, investigating parents who are raising transgender children. In Florida, going after Mickey Mouse for God’s sake,” he said to laughter in the East Room, which was full of members of Congress, advocates and others.

The hallway leading into the East Room was lit up with rainbow colors, and a digital rainbow flag was displayed behind the president. First lady Jill Biden, Vice President Harris, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay Cabinet official, joined the president on stage.

The president signed a sweeping executive order earlier on Wednesday that aims to protect LGBT youth from these laws and address barriers they face to health care and housing. The order will direct the Department of Health and Human Services to release new guidance for states on how to expand access to comprehensive health care for LGBT patients and order the Education Department to release a sample school policy that is inclusive of LGBT students, among other actions. 

The first lady also spoke at the event, noting that LGBT rights are under attack in conservative-leaning states.

“We know that in places across the country, like Florida, Texas or Alabama, rights are under attack. And we know that in small towns and big cities, prejudice and discrimination still lurk,” she said.

She also touted her husband’s history supporting LGBT rights.

“What Joe said 10 years ago was right. Love is love,” she said.

Biden was introduced by Javier Gomez, an 18-year-old from Florida who helped organize student walkouts over the legislation that critics have deemed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

“I’m fighting for the next little Javier. So, he doesn’t have to cry himself to sleep every night, aching that he wakes up normal,” Gomez said.

He called Biden “a true leader” on LGBT issues, adding that Biden is “standing up for us with action against these extreme attacks by the governor of my state [who] has turned his back on young LGBTQ+ people and our families,” referring to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

While at the event, Biden signed the executive order, which will also launch a new federal government initiative to crack down on “conversion” therapy, which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Biden will call on the Federal Trade Commission to consider whether “conversion” therapy constitutes an “unfair or deceptive act or practice.” 

Biden spoke about the attacks on LGBT individuals in the U.S., specifically mentioning the 31 members of a white nationalist group who were arrested near an Idaho Pride event on Saturday.

“These attacks are real and consequential for real families, for real families,” he said.

“Violent attacks on the communities, including ongoing attacks on transgender women of color, make our nation less safe. These attacks were more than ever last year and they’re on pace again this year. They’re disgusting and they have to stop,” Biden added.

Biden called out LGBT members of his administration, including Buttigieg, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services Rachel Levine.

Biden said that Buttigieg is helping to rebuild America in his official role, which is focused on the infrastructure law, but that he’s also “helping rebuild pride in America.”

“My message to all the young people: just be you. You are loved, you are heard, you are understood, you do belong. I want to know that as your president, all of us on this stage have your back,” Biden added.

He reiterated his calls for Congress to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would ban discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill passed the House last year, but stalled in the Senate, where Democrats don’t have enough votes to prevent a GOP filibuster.

Biden has made the rights of the LGBT community a focus of his administration, including protecting these groups against discrimination. He has reversed a Trump-era ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, and the State Department now offers the “X” gender marker on U.S. passports. 

Tags Biden gay rights Jill Biden Joe Biden Joe Biden LGBT Pete Buttigieg trans rights

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