WASHINGTON (CN) — Ahead of a Pride Month party on the South Lawn, considered the largest Pride celebration in White House history, President Joe Biden announced several initiatives Thursday to counter what have been mounting efforts across the country to roll back the rights and recognition of the LGBTQ+ community.
Thursday’s measures focus on protecting individuals, supporting children and combating book bans.
“We believe that not only does this community need to be celebrated and continue to be celebrated … but we also need to make sure that we let the community know that the president has their back and we're going to continue to fight for them,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who is the first openly gay person to serve in her role, said at a briefing Wednesday.
The announcement comes the same week that Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ+ advocacy group, declared for the first time a “state of emergency” for the community’s rights in the United States. The group highlighted more than 525 bills in 41 states considered detrimental to LGBTQ+ people.
Biden's initiative meanwhile announces a community safety partnership between the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services. In addition to conducting bimonthly threat briefings, the partnership will train advocacy organizations on how to respond to threats and on how to report hate crimes.
“LGBTQI+ individuals — especially transgender women and girls of color — have experienced disproportionately high rates of violence and hate crimes for decades,” the White House said in a fact sheet released Thursday.
In the escalating culture wars, a debate about when, how or if children learn in school about differing sexual orientations has been a flashpoint. The second tenet of Biden’s initiative directs Health and Human Services to issue a behavioral health care advisory for youth who are transgender or gender diverse "to provide evidence-based practices for mental health providers.” The agency will issue guidance to states for using federal funding to support mental health services for LGBTQ+ youth.
Health and Human Services also unveiled a grant program that will award $1.7 million for programs supporting behavioral health in LGBTQ+ youth.
Officials are planning to revise federal policies in the Social Security Act to require state child welfare agencies to provide better access to safe and appropriate placement of LGBTQ+ children in foster care.
The last leg of the initiative focuses on combating book bans, which have swept the country as states expand policies that allow complaints about literature in schools.
“Book banning erodes our democracy, removes vital resources for student learning, and can contribute to the stigma and isolation that LGBTQI+ people and other communities face,” the White House said.
Republicans and supporters of book bans have characterized their fight as one of parental rights, a key component of the campaign that led Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin to win his office in 2021.
Commenting on the designation of a parental rights organization as a hate group, Youngkin said parents should be empowered to participate in their children’s education.
“No confusion here that the liberal left reminds us again that they think parents shouldn’t be a part of their own kids’ education,” Youngkin tweeted. “Their continued attempts to demonize parents doesn’t work.”
Biden directed the Department of Education to appoint a coordinator focused on “the growing threat that book bans pose for the civil rights of students.” The coordinator will provide training for schools about book bans and how they may violate federal civil rights.
“My entire administration stands proudly with the LGBTQI+ community in the enduring struggle for freedom, justice, and equality,” Biden said in a statement recognizing Pride Month. “Our collective freedoms are inextricably linked: when one group’s dignity and equality are threatened, we all suffer.”Follow @TheNolanStout
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