WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — President Joe Biden issued an executive order Wednesday to stop discriminatory legislative attacks on the LGBTQ community by Republican-controlled states ahead of a signing ceremony filled with activists. She said, “Pride is back in the White House.”
The order seeks to discourage “conversion therapy”—a discredited practice aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity—while promoting gender-affirming surgery and fostering for gay and transgender parents and children. Expanding care security.
Tapping money already allocated to federal agencies rather than needing new funding, Biden said the order is meant to counter the more than 300 LGBTQ laws introduced by state lawmakers over the past year. The Department of Health and Human Services will draft new policies to expand care for LGBTQ families, and the Department of Education will create rules to better protect LGBTQ students in public schools.
The President, First Lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended a crowded reception in the East Room of the White House, where the adjoining hallway was decorated in rainbow colors. In attendance were LGBTQ activists, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress, and top administration officials including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who adopted the twins with her husband, Chastain.
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 down to sign the order. He specifically pointed to the arrest of 31 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front near the Idaho Pride event.
The actions listed in the order seek to improve programs to better address the issue of suicide among LGBTQ children and to make adoption easier for LGBTQ parents and children.
“It doesn’t take the courage to be myself,” said Jill Biden, who noted that it was a little too hot and humid in the sun-drenched Washington in the summer to hold the event on the South Lawn. “We know that, Florida. Or across the country like 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, signed in March by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. It provides instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Critics say it marginalizes LGBTQ people, and the law sparked a public battle between the state and The Walt Disney Company.
Biden’s action creates a federal working group to help tackle LGBTQ homelessness and promotes educational policies for states and school districts that encourage inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ children. His order also establishes new rules to discourage conversion therapy, although efforts to enforce restrictions against it in places where state law allows the practice will depend on legal challenges outside the White House.
While some Republican-led legislatures support conversation therapy, other states and communities have banned it. The American Psychological Association states that the conversation is not based on medical science and is harmful to a participant’s mental health.
The order further directs health officials to state that federally funded programs cannot be used for conversion therapy. And it seeks to lower barriers to health care and certain types of treatment for the LGBTQ community, including gender confirmation surgery.
It follows Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s February order directing the Texas Child Welfare Agency to investigate reports of gender-affirming care for children as abuse. A judge has since issued a restraining order that halted investigations into three families, and halted others.
“We have a lot more work to do,” Biden said. “In Texas, parents raising transgender children are knocking on front doors to harass and investigate. In Florida, going after Mickey Mouse for God’s sake.
In earlier orders, Biden has sought to direct that gay and transgender people are protected from discrimination in schools, health care, housing and work. He ordered federal agencies to update and expand rules prohibiting sex discrimination to include sex discrimination and gender identity, and reversed the ban on transgender people serving in the military.
Biden on Wednesday also renewed his call for Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would amend existing civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The measure has been halted on Capitol Hill, but the president said it was necessary to “ensure the long-pending civil rights protections of all Americans, every American.”