Biden targets ‘hateful’ anti-LGBT+ laws and conversion therapy in sweeping executive order

President’s action will send ‘full force of the federal government’ to support LGBT+ Americans and their families targeted by wave of legislation

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 15 June 2022 18:02 BST

Related video: White House condemns ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill as ‘misinformed and hateful’

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President Joe Biden will sign an executive order to protect LGBT+ Americans following a wave of discriminatory legislation and Republican-led measures targeting transgender healthcare.

The president’s executive action directs the US Department of Health and Human Services to help states expand access to healthcare for LGBT+ Americans and orders the Department of Education to study the impacts of state laws – like so-called “Don’t Say Gay” measures – on LGBT+ young people and draft inclusive school policies.

Mr Biden’s order also directs the Health Department to clarify that federally funded programmes cannot support “conversion therapy” efforts and ensure that US aid is not used to support the practice elsewhere.

The president’s order also will support suicide prevention programmes and direct federal agencies to study barriers to federal programmes and benefits, as well as the disparate impacts LGBT+ people face in housing, foster care, the criminal justice system, healthcare and in schools.

“The president has said repeatedly that he will stand with LGBTQI youth and families and people across the country,” a senior administration official told reporters on 15 June. “That’s what this executive order is going to do – it’s going to send that message. It’s going to direct the full force of the federal government to provide resources and support for families so that while they’re under attack by the state, they know that we’re on their side and we’re providing resources to help them.”

More than 340 bills targeting LGBT+ people – mostly transgender youth, including access to gender-affirming care and participation in school sports – were considered in state legislatures in 2022. Of those bills, at least 144 targeted transgender young people.

At least 24 anti-LGBT+ bills were signed into law in at least 13 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Two-thirds of LGBT+ youth reported negative mental health impacts around such legislation, according to a report from LGBT+ advocacy and crisis intervention group The Trevor Project.

A 2021 report from the organisation found LGBT+ youth are four times more likely to seriously consider, plan or attempt suicide than their peers, while LGBT+ young people between the ages of 13 and 24 attempt to kill themselves every 45 seconds within the US.

Rhetoric and debate used to promote legislation also has mobilised anti-LGBT+ violence and abuse – at least three LGBT+ events were targeted by white nationalist groups within the last week alone.

Police in Idaho arrested 31 people affiliated with the far-right group Patriot Front after arriving near an annual “Pride in the Park” event with gas masks and shields. Other groups have targeted drag queen reading events at libraries and made threats against other Pride-related events.

The White House said the president is “addressing these harmful, hateful, and discriminatory attacks head-on – not only by speaking up for America’s families, but taking action to stand up to the bullies targeting LGBTQI+ people.”

“Hateful, discriminatory laws that target children are out of line with where the American people are, and President Biden is going to use his authority to protect kids and families,” the official said.

The US Department of Education and the Department of Justice, which has joined a lawsuit against the state of Alabama for its felony ban on gender-affirming care, have also warned state attorneys general and state officials about their compliance with federal constitutional and statutory provisions to protect LGBT+ people from discrimination.

The Trevor Project’s CEO and director Amit Paley praised the order and said it is “crucial” that schools and the upcoming 988 mental health hotline are equipped to handle resources for LGBT+ youth.

“Despite recent and relentless political attacks, we are hopeful that this will move us forward toward a day where all LGBTQ young people can be themselves without fear of discrimination or violence,” he said in a statement

Kristine Kippins, deputy legal director for policy with LGBT+ rights group Lamda Legal, said the executive order marks a “huge step in the right direction” but “a beginning, not the end.”

The group is among other LGBT+ advocates calling for stronger protections for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex- and gender-based discrimination in schools and other education programmes, to better protect LGBT+ young people.

The president is expected to sign the order on Wednesday during a White House event commemorating Pride Month.

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