Biden signs executive order to combat discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ community

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday issued an executive order to end what his administration describes as discriminatory legislative attacks on the LGBTQ community by Republican-controlled states, declaring before a signing ceremony full of activists, “Pride is back in the White House”.

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

Using money already allocated to federal agencies rather than asking for new funds, Biden said the order was intended to counter more than 300 anti-LGBTQ laws introduced by state lawmakers in the past year alone. The Department of Health and Human Services will draft new guidelines to extend care to LGBTQ families, and the Department of Education will develop 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, as well as senior administration officials including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who adopted twins with his husband Chasten.

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 real to real families,” the President said before sitting down to sign the order. He specifically pointed to the arrest of 31 members of the white racist group Patriot Front near a Pride event in Idaho last weekend.

The measures outlined in the regulation seek to support programs that better address the issue of suicide among LGBTQ children and seek to facilitate adoption for LGBTQ parents and children.

“It shouldn’t take courage to be yourself,” said Jill Biden, noting that summery, sun-drenched Washington was a little too hot and muggy to hold the event on the South Lawn. “We know that right wingers are being attacked in places across the country like Florida, Texas or Alabama. And we know that prejudice and discrimination still lurk in towns and cities alike.”

Among the state laws the White House has opposed is Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” measure, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in March. It bans teaching about 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 Co.

Biden’s action creates a federal task force to tackle LGBTQ homelessness and one to advance state and school district educational policies that promote inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ children. His order also establishes new rules to discourage conversion therapy, although efforts to enforce bans on it in places where state laws allow the practice will rely on legal challenges from outside the White House.

While some Republican-led lawmakers have championed conversion therapy, other states and localities have banned it. The American Psychological Association says conversion therapy is not based on scientific evidence and is harmful to a participant’s mental health.

The order also directs health officials to clarify that state-funded programs cannot be used to fund conversion therapy. And it’s trying to break down barriers to healthcare and certain types of treatments for the LGBTQ community, including gender-affirming surgeries.

This follows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s February order directing the Texas Child Protection Agency to investigate reports of gendered child abuse as abuse. A judge has since issued an injunction that dropped investigations into three families and prevented others.

“We still have a lot to do,” Biden said. “Knocking on Doors in Texas to Harass and Investigate Parents Raising Transgender Children. In Florida, for goodness sake, after Mickey Mouse.”

In previous orders, Biden has attempted to mandate that gay and transgender people be protected from discrimination in schools, healthcare, homes and workplaces. He ordered federal agencies to update and expand rules prohibiting sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and lifted a ban on transgender people serving in the military.

Biden also on Wednesday renewed his calls for Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would amend the existing Civil Rights Act to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identification as protected characteristics. The measure stalled on Capitol Hill, but the president said there was a need to “enshrine long-overdue protections for the civil rights of every American, every American.”

Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Biden signs executive order to combat discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ community

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