June 22, 2022 Philadelphia Gay News
President Biden and Javier Gomez at the June 15 White House Pride event. (Photo via The White House / Facebook.)
To commemorate Pride Month, President Joe Biden signed a sweeping executive order June 15. The 2,200 word order directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Education, both of which have largely ignored or dismissed anti-LGBTQ attacks and legislation, to consider implementing policy and protocols specifically for LGBTQ people, especially youth and families.
Biden referred to the broad-based executive order, delivered at the White House to several hundred LGBTQ advocates and allies, as an effort “to stand up to the bullies targeting” the LGBTQ community.
The measures listed in the lengthy order focus on creating more safety and some measure of equality for LGBTQ people who are under attack from the Republican Party in state legislatures, which has put forward more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills, as PGN has been reporting for months, but which has gone unremarked or addressed by either HHS or the Department of Education.
Biden also called on the Senate to pass the Equality Act, which has passed twice in the House but has stalled in the Senate despite a Democratic majority.
The Equality Act would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect LGBTQ people from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity in employment, housing, school and other services, as well as access to public accommodations such as restaurants.
At the White House event, Biden was introduced by Javier Gomez, a Florida student activist who organized a school walkout against the Don’t Say Gay law.
Speaking to a group of Democratic lawmakers, including members of the Equality Caucus, and several hundred activists and allies, Biden said, “No one knows better than the people in this room: We have a lot more work to do…. I don’t have to tell you about the ultra-MAGA agenda, attacking families and our freedoms.”
Biden also said, “All of you in this room know better than anyone, that these attacks are real and consequential for real families, for real families.”
Biden also noted the recent arrests of 31 men in Idaho linked to a white nationalist group who intended to riot at a weekend Pride event. Biden said, “Violent attacks on the community, including ongoing attacks on transgender women of color, make our nation less safe. They’re disgusting. And they have to stop.”
The White House event was also attended by Vice President Harris, Dr. Jill Biden, Doug Emhoff, Pete Buttigieg, Dr. Rachel Levine, and Deb Haaland,
The new executive order focuses on pushing back against the onslaught of GOP bills in state legislatures. It also urges HHS to protect gay and trans children from conversion therapy as well as implement programs to prevent youth suicide. There is also a directive to protect LGBTQ foster youth.
A White House fact sheet on the executive order states. “President Biden is charging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with protecting LGBTQI+ children and families from attacks on their access to health care, and has instructed HHS to release new sample policies for states on how to expand access to comprehensive health care for LGBTQI+ patients.”
In addition, the White House said, “President Biden is directing the Department of Education with addressing the impacts of state laws that target LGBTQI+ students, and has charged the department with releasing a sample school policy for achieving full inclusion for LGBTQI+ students.”
As part of the broad-based order, conversion therapy is to be targeted by HHS and the Federal Trade Commission. The order stipulates those agencies work to limit conversion therapy by determining “whether the practice constitutes an unfair or deceptive act or practice, and whether to issue consumer warnings or notices,” per the fact sheet.
The order adds many other approaches to LGBTQ equity, including expanding federal data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, support for older LGBTQ adults, support for youth in juvenile justice systems, addressing LGBTQ homelessness and housing instability, and reviewing access and barriers for families to federal programs and benefits.
The steps, a senior Biden official said, “will improve the health, well-being, and safety of countless families across the country. And they will send a powerful signal from the President of the United States to LGBTQI kids across the country who may be feeling scared and hopeless that their President has their back.”
The National LGBTQ Task Force was less enthusiastic than the Biden official. In a lengthy statement that detailed what was necessary and welcome, what was vague and unsupportable, and what was omitted, Mayra Hidalgo Salazar, Deputy Executive Director, said, “While the Pride invitation, event itself and the Executive Order contents signal a positive departure from the previous administration, the country’s climate for LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, and people of color remain dangerous and is escalating. We need a strong, operational response to this reality reflected in the EO.”
The Task Force noted, “Jennicet Gutiérrez, co-executive director of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, publicly declined an invitation to attend the 2022 White House Pride Month celebration to protest the detention and deportation of LGBTQ people.”
Gutiérrez called for a series of actions including “IMMEDIATELY release ALL transgender people, people living with HIV, and people with medical conditions from ICE custody.”
Hidalgo-Salazar said, “Our communities need bold action and tangible support from an ally with the largest bully pulpit, power and resources to fight the onslaught–President Biden.”
Liz Seaton, Task Force Policy Director, said, “We appreciate the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to date and this new EO and hope the EO yields tangible benefits that improve people’s daily lives. We take seriously our responsibility to advocate for our communities’ needs from our national government.”
Seaton added, “That said, the White House provides no deadline for when our community’s children, young people and families can expect new Title IX regulations. It’s two years since the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock that federal civil right laws protect LGBTQ people because sex includes gender identity and sexual orientation. Today’s conservative Supreme Court poses an enormous threat, and this can’t wait.”
The White House has provided no timeline for when the proposals in the executive order will be implemented.