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President Biden calls out LGBTQ survivors in World AIDS Day proclamation

Biden in his World AIDS Day statement says his administration “remains steadfast in our efforts to end the HIV epidemic”

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President Joe Biden (Official White House photo by Adam-Schultz)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden recognized LGBTQ people as among the survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on Tuesday in a statement recognizing World AIDS Day, marking a departure from consistent omissions of the LGBTQ community under the Trump administration.

“Ending the HIV epidemic is within our reach, and we are committed to finishing this work,” Biden said. “On World AIDS Day, we rededicate ourselves to building on the progress of the last 4 decades; upholding and advancing human rights; supporting research, science, and data-driven solutions; expanding access to housing, education, and economic empowerment; and fighting stigma and discrimination. No one living with HIV should suffer the undeserved guilt and prejudice that too many continue to experience.”

Biden, as the world recognizes World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, enumerates LGBTQ people as survivors in a paragraph acknowledging the coronavirus pandemic has presented new obstacles in efforts to beat HIV/AIDS.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the challenges our heroic health care and frontline workers face, yet they continue to deliver essential HIV prevention services and provide vital care and treatment to people living with HIV,” Biden said. “The pandemic has also interrupted HIV research and highlighted the work that still remains to achieve equitable access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment in every community — particularly for communities of color, adolescent girls and young women, and the LGBTQI+ community.”

The inclusion of LGBTQ people in a statement recognizing World AIDS Day stands in contrast to statements from President Trump, who consistently declined to mention the LGBTQ community in each of his statements. The consistent omissions took place even though top health officials under the Trump administration started the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, which seeks to beat HIV/AIDS by 2030.

Last year, Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, asked by the Washington Blade why the LGBTQ community was missing from the 2020 statement, responded with a false statement Trump was the first to observe World AIDS Day by adorning the White House with a large red AIDS ribbon. In fact, the practice began under President George W. Bush and had continued through Obama and Trump administrations.

The inclusion of LGBTQ people in Biden’s World AIDS Day statement is consistent with former President Obama mentioning LGBTQ people as among the survivors of HIV/AIDS in his final World AIDS Day statement. In 2016, Obama acknowledged “gay and bisexual men, transgender people, youth, black and Latino Americans, people living in the Southern United States, and people who inject drugs are at a disproportionate risk” of the disease.

Biden in his World AIDS Day statement says his administration “remains steadfast in our efforts to end the HIV epidemic,” ticking off policies his administration has pursued, including a budget request of $670 million to fight HIV/AIDS domestically and support for global initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS, which he said has save more than 21 million lives.

“This remarkable progress over the past 18 years has been made possible through strong, bipartisan United States leadership and American generosity,” Biden said.

Read President Biden’s full statement below:

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
 
A PROCLAMATION
For decades, World AIDS Day has been recognized as an opportunity for people around the world to stand together in the fight against HIV.  This year on World AIDS Day, we are focused on addressing health inequities and inequalities and ensuring that the voices of people with HIV are at the center of our work to end the HIV epidemic globally.

While we have made remarkable progress in the 40 years since the first-known reported case of AIDS, this disease remains a serious public health challenge — and we join the international community to honor and remember the more than 36 million people, including 700,000 Americans, who have tragically died from AIDS-related illness since the start of the epidemic.  We also renew our commitment to stand with the nearly 38 million people living with HIV around the world as we pursue our shared goal of ending the HIV epidemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the challenges our heroic health care and frontline workers face, yet they continue to deliver essential HIV prevention services and provide vital care and treatment to people living with HIV.  The pandemic has also interrupted HIV research and highlighted the work that still remains to achieve equitable access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment in every community — particularly for communities of color, adolescent girls and young women, and the LGBTQI+ community.

My Administration remains steadfast in our efforts to end the HIV epidemic, confront systems and policies that perpetuate entrenched health inequities, and build a healthier world for all people. Earlier this year, I reinstated the White House Office of National AIDS Policy to coordinate our efforts to reduce the number of HIV infections across our Nation.  This week, my Administration is releasing an updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy to decrease health inequities in new diagnoses and improve access to comprehensive, evidence-based HIV-prevention tools. This updated strategy will make equity a cornerstone of our response and bring a whole-of-government approach to fighting HIV.

My budget request includes $670 million to support the Department of Health and Human Services’ Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. Initiative — to reduce HIV diagnoses and AIDS-related deaths.  My Administration has also strengthened the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS by adding members from diverse backgrounds who bring the knowledge and expertise needed to further our Nation’s HIV response. 

My Administration is committed to helping the world end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.  Through the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we have saved more than 21 million lives, prevented millions of HIV infections, and supported at least 20 countries around the world to reach epidemic control of HIV or achieve their ambitious HIV treatment targets.  This remarkable progress over the past 18 years has been made possible through strong, bipartisan United States leadership and American generosity.  Now, together with partner governments and communities, my Administration is setting a bold vision for achieving sustained epidemic control of HIV by supporting equitable health services and solutions, contributing to improved health for all in PEPFAR-supported countries, and working with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; UNAIDS; and other regional and local partners toward the goal of ending the HIV epidemic everywhere.

Ending the HIV epidemic is within our reach, and we are committed to finishing this work.  On World AIDS Day, we rededicate ourselves to building on the progress of the last 4 decades; upholding and advancing human rights; supporting research, science, and data-driven solutions; expanding access to housing, education, and economic empowerment; and fighting stigma and discrimination.  No one living with HIV should suffer the undeserved guilt and prejudice that too many continue to experience.  We must innovate and explore new ways to help address HIV/AIDS in communities here at home and around the world.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 1, 2021, as World AIDS Day.  I urge the Governors of the United States and its Territories, and the American people to join the HIV community in activities to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS and to provide support, dignity, and compassion to those living with HIV.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth.
                              JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.
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White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention launched

The administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

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President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris listen as Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL10) addresses an audience in the Rose Garden including federal, state and local officials, survivors and family members, and gun violence prevention advocates. (Photo Credit: Brandon Wolf)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) addressed an audience from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday to honor the establishment of a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

In a press release Thursday announcing the move, the administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act along with those contained in the president’s executive orders targeting issues of gun violence.

Additionally, Biden explained in his remarks, the office will coordinate more support for survivors, families and communities, including mental health services and financial aid; identify new avenues for executive action; and “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America” given the need for legislative solutions on the local and state level.

Harris, who will oversee the office, pledged to “use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”

The vice president noted her close experiences with the devastating consequences of gun violence in her work as a federal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and in her current role.

Biden’s comments also included highlights of his administration’s accomplishments combatting gun violence and a call to action for Congress to do more. “It’s time again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” he told lawmakers.

The president also credited the the work of advocates including those who were gathered at the White House on Friday: “all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families, advocates — especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all; who protested, organized, voted, and ran for office, and, yes, marched for their lives.”

Taking the stage before introducing Biden, Frost noted that “Right before I was elected to Congress, I served as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, a movement that inspired young people across the nation to demand safe communities.”

“The president understands that this issue especially for young people, especially for marginalized communities, is a matter of survival,” the congressman said. And the formation of this office, “comes from Pulse to Parkland,” he said, adding, “we fight because we love.”

Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, which was America’s second deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest against the LGBTQ community, shared a comment with the Washington Blade after Friday’s ceremony:

“Seven years ago, when my best friends and 47 others were murdered at our safe place — Pulse Nightclub — we promised to honor them with action. This is what that looks like. This deep investment in the fight to end gun violence matters, and I cannot wait to see Vice President Harris lead these efforts. We can blaze the path toward a future free of gun violence. And today marked an important step in that direction.”

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White House announces Office of Gun Violence Prevention

The first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris

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The first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention is to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris shown here in September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

WASHINGTON – The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

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White House nominates San Diego Mayor for Board of Trustees

“I look forward to helping ensure it continues to develop America’s next generation of talented public servants”

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San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria (D) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – The White House on Wednesday announced the nomination of openly gay San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria (D) to join the Board of Trustees of the Harry S Truman Scholarship Foundation.

“As a 1999 Harry S. Truman Scholar, I am deeply honored to be nominated by President Biden to serve on the Foundation’s Board of Trustees,” Gloria said in a press release.

“I know how critical it is to support young people interested in careers in public service,” he said, adding, “That’s what the Truman Scholarship provided me, and I look forward to helping ensure it continues to develop America’s next generation of talented public servants.”

The Foundation’s Board of Trustees is responsible for administering the highly competitive scholarship program, including selecting the awardees each year.

The Board is chaired by former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and its 19 members also include U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Brian Schatz (D-HI.), as well as U.S. Reps. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) and Kay Granger (R-Texas), who chairs the U.S. House Appropriations Committee.

When he began his term in 2020, Gloria became the first person of color and the first openly gay person to serve as mayor of San Diego.

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Vice President Harris makes Pride Month appearances in NYC

Extremists on the right, the Vice President warned, are working to claw back rights and freedoms across the board

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with reporters at the Stonewall Inn on Monday, June 26. (Official White House photo)

NEW YORK – The Washington Blade joined Vice President Kamala Harris on a trip to New York on Monday, where she made a surprise appearance at the Stonewall Inn and delivered remarks at an LGBTQ campaign reception in support of the Biden Victory Fund.

Her first stop began with a briefing and tour of the Stonewall National Monument by Shirley McKinney, Christopher Street Manhattan Sites Superintendent for the National Park Service. The visit came just ahead of the upcoming 54th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969, which marked the beginning of a nascent movement for LGBTQ civil rights in America.

Harris then proceeded into the bar, where she was joined by its current owner Kurt Kelly and television producer and talk show host Andy Cohen.

Noting how “it was a drag queens fighting on our behalf” to defend patrons against yet another police raid on that fateful summer night in 1969, Kelly asked the Vice President, “isn’t that ironic where we are today?”

2023 has seen the introduction of a flurry of discriminatory bills in conservative states that target drag performances and performers.

“Yes, I know,” Harris responded. “It’s outrageous.”

“There are over 600 bills that are being proposed or passed, anti-LGBTQ+ bills,” she said. “I was honored to perform some of the first same-sex marriages in our country back in 2004. I look at these young teachers in Florida who are in their 20s, and if they’re in a same-sex relationship, are afraid or fear they might lose their jobs.”

Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, signed into law last year by the state’s Republican Gov. and 2024 presidential contender Ron DeSantis, criminalizes classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. Critics say its overly broad language means an LGBTQ teacher’s decision to display a photo of their family could violate the law and result in penalties including termination.

“So just thinking about the symmetry there, it pains but it also reminds me that we can take nothing for granted in terms of the progress we’ve achieved,” Harris said.

Later, addressing reporters gathered outside the bar, the Vice President said, “I’m here because I also understand not only what we celebrate in terms of those fighters who fought for freedom, but understanding that this fight is not over.”

“Anti-LGBTQ book bans. A policy approach that is Don’t Say Gay. People in fear for their life. People afraid to be. These are fundamental issues that point to the need for us to all be vigilant, to stand together,” Harris said, adding, “I feel very strongly no one should be made to fight alone.”

Just before departing en route to the Upper East Side, Harris finished her remarks by discussing how working toward a more just country is both noble and necessary. “Fighting with pride is about being a patriot,” she said.

After taking the stage at the 24th Annual LGBTQ+ Leadership Council Gala, a campaign reception supporting the Biden Victory Fund, Harris began her remarks by proclaiming, “Pride is patriotism,” adding, “There is nothing more patriotic than celebrating freedom, which includes the freedom to love who you love and be who you are.”

The Vice President then told the crowd about her visit to Stonewall where, she said, “I reflected on the determination and dedication of patriots like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson” along with the late political consultant Jim Rivaldo, who helped elect gay rights icon Harvey Milk to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978 and then served as campaign manager for Harris when she was first elected to serve as the city’s district attorney in 2004.

“Jim would tell me about the early days of the gay rights movement,” she said, “stories about bringing folks together from the civil rights movement and labor rights movement and women’s rights movement to fight for and to secure freedom.”

Harris then turned to acknowledge another anniversary that was marked on Monday, the eighth year since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, establishing the nationwide constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

“That progress is not inevitable. It does not just happen. It takes steadfast determination and dedication,” she said, “the kind of determination and dedication possessed by people like Jim Obergefell.”

After thanking Obergefell — who was in the audience, earning a round of applause — Harris said, “it saddens me to think and then talk about aspects of the moment we are in. A moment when LGBTQ+ people and families and freedoms and basic rights are under attack in our country.”

Hours after the Vice President’s remarks, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a statement marking the High Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling that echoed Harris’s warning:

“Despite the progress that has been made, the fight against LGBTQ+ discrimination remains more urgent than ever as right-wing extremists across the nation seek to undermine legal precedent and strip away basic freedoms,” Pelosi said.

Describing the ascendence of anti-LGBTQ sentiment in America, Harris pointed to the rise in extreme rhetoric, threats, and violence targeting the community, noting the Human Rights Campaign’s proclamation of a state of emergency for LGBTQ people earlier this month.

More evidence of the precarity of the community’s rights and freedoms at this moment, Harris said, comes from the same institution that made equal marriage the law of the land, “the court of Thurgood [Marshall] and RBG,” which “will soon rule in a case that could allow businesses to refuse to serve” LGBTQ Americans. A decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis might come this week.

Extremists on the right, the Vice President warned, are working to claw back rights and freedoms across the board. They “have a plan to push their agenda as far and as wide as they possibly can,” she said, “to attack hard won rights and freedoms state by state. To attack the right to live as your authentic self, to attack the right to vote, to attack the rights of workers to organize, to attack the right to make decisions about one’s own body.”

Harris added, “And by the way, a year after Dobbs, it is clear these extremists also plan to ban abortion nationwide. Nationwide.”

However, she said, in the face of these challenges, thankfully voters have rejected extremism and embraced leaders who “have empathy,” those with “curiosity, concern, and care for the struggles of other people.”

They elected governors who “vetoed bills that would hurt transgender children and who signed bills to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination,” Harris said to raucous applause, pointing to Democratic Govs. Kathy Hochul (N.Y.) and Gretchen Whitmer (Mich.), both in attendance.

President Joe Biden, she said, is this kind of leader — famously unafraid to proclaim his support for marriage equality in 2012 before many others did, and then running on a platform in 2020 that “promised to not only protect but to expand the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ people” while “the other side continued their attacks” against them.

In anticipation of the threat posed by conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s stated interest in revisiting Obergefell, Biden codified legal protections for same-sex and interracial couples by signing the Respect for Marriage Act in December, Harris said.

Ten years ago this week, after refusing to defend the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage as California’s attorney general, “I had the privilege to pronounce my friends Kris Perry and Sandy Stier spouses for life,” Harris said.

A full circle moment came at the signing ceremony for the Respect for Marriage Act, she said, where “Kris and Sandy were there on the White House lawn with their four sons” alongside the “families, people from every background, every walk of life, understanding what it means to have a President, to have an administration, who has their back.”

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GOP is coming for same-sex marriage, Biden warns

Biden warned if Republicans win 2024 elections, they’ll go after the right to privacy, the basis for legal protections for same-sex marriage

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President Joe Biden signs an Executive Order (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Friday warned that if Republicans win next year’s elections, they will go after the right to privacy that has provided the basis for legal protections for same-sex marriage and access to contraception.

“These guys are serious, man. I — I said it when the decision came out, and people looked at me like I was exaggerating,” he said. “But they’re not stopping here.” 

Biden delivered the remarks during an event hosted by America’s largest pro-choice organizations in commemoration of the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Americans’ constitutional right to abortion.

Joining the president at the Mayflower Hotel in D.C. were his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff. Also in attendance were senior administration officials and House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who spoke before Biden took the stage.

Repeating his call for Congress to pass legislation restoring the reproductive freedoms that were erased with the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Biden also denounced the abortion restrictions that were since passed in red states.

“They’re not stopping here,” he said. “Make no mistake, this election is about freedom on the ballot.”

Representatives from the abortion rights groups hosting the event — Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America — endorsed Biden’s bid for re-election, likely a signal of his campaign’s confidence that reproductive rights will be a defining feature of the 2024 presidential race.

Also on Friday, the White House issued an Executive Order on Strengthening Access to Contraception along with a fact sheet providing an “update on the work of the Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access and the administration’s ongoing efforts to defend reproductive rights.”

The executive order delineates a series of actions including plans to improve access to affordable contraception for those with private health insurance; improve access to over-the-counter contraception; support family planning services and supplies across the Medicaid program; improve Medicare coverage of contraception; ensure “robust coverage” of contraception for service members, veterans and federal employees; increase contraception access for federally supported healthcare programs; improve access to affordable contraception provided by employer sponsored health plans and institutions of higher education; and support research documenting gaps and disparities in access to contraception.

The White House’s fact sheet, meanwhile, summarizes the Biden-Harris administration’s work fighting for reproductive rights in the wake of Dobbs. This has also included a series of actions contained in two executive orders along with those in Friday’s.

Among other moves, the administration has worked to ensure access to medication abortion, protect the freedom to travel across state lines for medical care, safeguard the privacy of health information and partner with statewide abortion rights advocates.

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Rose Montoya apologizes for topless stunt at the White House

“We need to be careful about the actions that we do and how it’s perceived, and I think that we should be more mindful of those decisions”

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The White House celebrates the LGBTQ+ community, June 2023. (Official White House Photo)

LOS ANGELES – Rose Montoya, the trans influencer who made headlines earlier this week for filming a video on Saturday in which she appears topless on the South Lawn of the White House during an official Pride Month event, has apologized.

“I want to take this moment to apologize for the impact of my actions,” she said in a video shared on Instagram.

“I especially want to apologize to my black trans brothers and siblings, especially transgender women who are black, because I understand that you all are constantly at a disproportionate level impacted by the actions of others and especially by anti trans violence.”

“I would also like to apologize to my family and friends who have been harassed,” she said, and “to my own community, the to LGBTQIA+ community.” Additionally Montoya said, “last but not least, I would like to apologize to the President, the White House and the nation.”

“It was also never my intention to create a situation that would lead to harassment [of] and harm [to] myself and others, nor for trans joy — like, my little moment of trans joy — to be weaponized by vile people of the opposition.”

Asked to respond to Montoya’s video, the White House on Tuesday condemned her behavior and said she would not be invited back.

The influencer’s decision to appear topless at the White House’s largest-ever Pride event — and one that was expressly catered toward LGBTQ families — “probably should have had more thought,” said trans Colorado State Rep. Brianna Titone.

“At this point in time, trans people are under a very powerful microscope,” she told the Washington Blade on Thursday, shortly after visiting the White House for a State Legislative Convening on Reproductive Rights.

“We need to be careful about the actions that we do and how it’s perceived, and I think that we should be more mindful of those decisions,” Titone said. “Everybody fits the description of being trans, especially, needs to be mindful of what we do.”

“I don’t want to say, well, we need to be on our best behavior – because it’s stupid to do that –but that’s the world we live in right now,” she said. “And if we want to make progress and if we want to not be painted in these negative ways, we need to police ourselves.”

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Douglas Emhoff, SBA Administrator visit LGBTQ small businesses

Emhoff and Guzman visited The Capital Candy Jar, Little District Books, & As You Are DC

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U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabel Guzman, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, and Patrick Kern (Official White House photo by Katie Ricks)

WASHINGTON – Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabel Guzman visited three LGBTQ owned small businesses in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, a White House official told the Washington Blade.

The two “met with the owners of each location and toured their businesses,” the official said, where Emhoff “spoke about how he navigated owning a small law firm for 8 years” and Guzman “highlighted the actions the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to help small businesses and the resources that are available.”

First up on the ShopProud tour was LGBTQ owned confectionary The Capital Candy Jar, where Emhoff picked up a milk chocolate caramel cloud candy for his spouse, the Vice President, Kamala Harris.

Then, at Little District Books, a queer-owned bookshop on Barracks Row, he bought lesbian chef and cookbook author Zoe Adjonyoh’s “Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen.” Emhoff and Harris, herself an avid cook, visited Ghana in late March on a trip that also included stops in Tanzania and Zambia.

Finally, the pair visited As You Are DC, an LGBTQIA+-focused event space that functions as an all-ages café by day and a 21+ bar and dance lounge by night. 

“We have an SBA backed line of credit with TD Bank and we have a piece of equipment we were able to purchase with that line of credit that we’re excited about,” said Dave Burton, owner of The Capital Candy Jar.

But for the SBA’s PPP loans, he added, his business might have been forced to shutter during the pandemic.

“When I was figuring out how to set up my bookstore, I spent a decent amount of time on the SBA website looking up the financing of business and resources since I basically had a small pile of money and I was like how do I turn this little pile of money into a whole business,” said Patrick Kern, owner of Little District Books. “And it was nice that SBA was a one-stop shop for all the information.”

SBA Senior Advisor Aditi Dassault said Guzman’s leadership of the agency marks a new chapter for LGBTQ small business owners: “This Administrator really values the community. She has an incredible political staff a very large portion of which are out and proud. So, this is an SBA for you, in a way that maybe it hasn’t been in the last few years and that’s very true about the Biden-Harris administration overall.”

Earlier this month, the White House announced a series of actions to protect LGBTQ Americans.

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Trans ‘influencer’ criticized for going topless on TikTok at White House Pride event

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) joined the criticism of Montoya on Tuesday

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (Screen capture/NBC News)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted the largest Pride month celebration ever held at the White House on Saturday, reaffirming the administration’s commitment to the LGBTQ community, but the behavior of one guest sparked controversy into this week.

“This behavior is inappropriate and disrespectful for any event at the White House,” a White House spokesperson said on Tuesday in response to a video in which trans “influencer” Rose Montoya appeared topless during Saturday’s event on the South Lawn.

“It is not reflective of the event we hosted to celebrate LGBTQI+ families or the other hundreds of guests who were in attendance,” the spokesperson said, adding, “Individuals in the video will not be invited to future events.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre echoed those comments during a press briefing Tuesday, telling reporters: “That type of behavior is, as I said, unacceptable. It’s inappropriate, it’s disrespectful. And it really does not reflect the event that we hosted to celebrate the LGBTQ+ families.” 

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), appearing on Fox News to discuss the indictment of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, pivoted to discussing the incident involving Montoya, which he characterized as emblematic of a national “decline” and “cultural hysteria.”

“We had a lady, or man that now claims to be a lady, you know, going topless at the White House two days ago at a Pride celebration thing,” Rubio said.

Montoya defended her video on TikTok, insisting that she did not violate any laws.

“I fully support the movement and freeing the nipple,” she said. “My trans masculine friends were showing off their top surgery scars and living in joy, and I wanted to join them. And because it is perfectly within the law of Washington, D.C. I decided to join them and cover my nipples just to play it safe.”

“I had zero intention of trying to be vulgar or be profane in any way,” Montoya said. “I was simply living my joy, and my truth, and existing in my body.”

The influencer did not respond to requests for comment from the Washington Blade.

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Biden hosts biggest-ever Pride Month event at the White House

“I want to send a message to the entire community especially to transgender children. You aren’t alone. You are heard. You are understood”

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President Joe Biden (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on Saturday welcomed more than 1,000 guests to the largest Pride Month celebration ever hosted at the White House.

“Happy Pride Month,” the President said from a stage on the South Lawn. “Happy Pride year,” he added, “happy Pride life.”

The Biden-Harris administration has more openly-LGBTQ people working at every level of government than ever before, Biden noted, and “we’re doing everything we can to advance equality for the LGBTQ community.”

“As Commander In Chief, I was proud to reverse the ban on transgender Americans serving in the United States military. I signed historic executive orders extending civil rights protections for housing, employment, health care, education, and the justice system.”

“We’re combatting the dangerous and cruel practice of conversation therapy and launching a new national strategy to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, working with communities to treat and contain the mpox outbreak, and ending the disgraceful practice of banning gay and bisexual men from donating blood.”

Biden said the administration is making LGBTQ equality around the world a top priority, such as by reviewing “our engagement with Uganda following its anti-gay law, the most extreme in the world.”

“Last December, we felt such pride here on the South Lawn when I signed the historic Respect for Marriage Act, which protects the marriages of same-sex and interracial couples.”

Despite this progress, the President said, “real challenges still remain.” For instance, he said, “When a person can be married in the morning and thrown out of the restaurant for being gay in the afternoon, something is still very wrong in America. That’s why the Congress must pass and send me the Equality Act.”

“Joining us today are survivors of Club Q and Pulse,” Biden said, shootings that highlight the importance of implementing the provisions of the bipartisan gun bill passed last year. He added that work must continue with banning assault weapons.

“With families across the country facing excruciating decisions to relocate to a different state to protect their child from dangerous anti LGBTQ laws, we have to act,” Biden said. “We have to act as a nation. We need to push back against the hundreds of callous and cynical bills and laws introduced in states targeting transgender children, terrifying families and criminalizing doctors and nurses.”

“These bills and laws attack the most basic values we have as Americans that’s not hyperbole,” said the President. “It’s a fact.”

“I recognize that for a lot of folks across the country, maybe it’s not you, your kid, your family member going through whatever a transgender child and their family is going through,” Biden said.

“But I think we can all agree,” he said, “if it were you, you’d want the space to figure it out with your family and doctor.”

“So today, I want to send a message to the entire community especially to transgender children. You aren’t alone. You are heard. You are understood…your president, my entire administration has your back!”

“Two days ago, I announced a series of new initiatives we’re taking to protect the LGBTQ community,” Biden said. “First, ensuring your physical safety. Whether you’re organizing a Pride Parade, running a small business or just trying to focus at school, you shouldn’t have to deal with bomb threats, harassment, and violent attacks.”

“That’s why the Department of Homeland Security with the support of the Department of Justice and Department Health and Human Services is launching a safety partnership that’s gonna provide critical training and support to the community — dedicated resources to better protect festivals, marches, community centers and businesses.”

Second, said the President, “We’re addressing how the growing threat that book bans violate civil rights law when they target LGBTQ students or students of color and create hostile classroom environments.”

“Third, we’re investing in the future of LGBTQ kids. Last year we launched a nationwide crisis hotline for LGBTQ youth who are feeling isolated and overwhelmed,” said Biden, who also noted initiatives focused on mental health and combatting homelessness among LGBTQ youth.

“You set the example for the nation and quite frankly for the world,” Biden said. “You know, we all move forward when we’re together with your joy, your pride, lighting the way.”

‘You Are Loved’: Biden Defends Transgender Children’s Rights, Slams Anti-LGBT Laws At WH Pride Event:

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White House debuts new actions to protect the LGBTQ community

HUD will launch federal initiatives to combat LGBTQ youth homelessness and new regulations to “protect LGBTQ kids in foster care”

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White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden (Screenshot/YouTube LA Times)

WASHINGTON – White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden, during a call with reporters on Wednesday, announced a slate of new actions the administration will undertake to better protect the LGBTQ community.

These will focus on three major areas, she said: safety and security, issues for LGBTQ youth like mental health and housing insecurity, and combatting book bans.

President Joe Biden has “already developed a historic record of supporting the LGBTQ community,” Tanden said, noting that he and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden are also prepared to “host the largest Pride celebration in White House history” on Thursday evening.

At the same time, she said, LGBTQ Americans are now experiencing “a whole range of attacks” from “hateful, un-American legislation” to “a disturbing surge in violent threats.”

Administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the administration’s “community safety partnership” will “work hand in hand with LGBTQ community organizations” to provide safety training and resources, Tanden said.

For example, she said, “and it’s so unfortunate to have to say this,” but the partnership will help LGBTQ community centers “prepare for the worst” – including “bomb threats, active shooters, and cybersecurity threats – while also protecting “healthcare providers who serve the community by working with doctors and medical associations.”

Actions for LGBTQ kids that Tanden previewed on Wednesday include HHS’s development of a behavioral health care advisory for transgender and gender diverse youth, to help ensure young people are given the best evidence-based care.

On Thursday, she said, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will launch federal initiatives to combat LGBTQ youth homelessness and new regulations to “protect LGBTQ kids in foster care.”

Finally, Tanden said, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights “will appoint a new coordinator” to combat book bans, which disproportionately target, for exclusion, materials with LGBTQ characters or themes, or communities of color.

DoE’s coordinator will “offer trainings and resources to schools to help them understand that students have a right to learn free from discrimination, and that book bands may violate federal civil rights laws if they create a hostile environment for students,” Tanden said.

A senior administration official, responding to a question from the Washington Blade following Tanden’s remarks, elaborated on the scope of the community safety partnership.

Community organizations, they said, will include “health clinics, community centers, and organizations that are planning Pride celebrations, but it also includes small businesses like restaurants and bars that have been targeted because they’re run by LGBTQI+ Americans or because they host events that support that community.”

“We’ll be encouraging and reaching out directly to organizations that have been impacted by these violent threats to help make sure that they have the training and the resources they need to stay safe,” the official said.

They added that DHS and DoJ, in anticipation of the possibility that threats will increase in June, “have both been working proactively over many months leading up to Pride to communicate with state and local law enforcement about the threats that the community may face and to help local pride organizers get access to any federal safety resources they may need to help keep the community safe.”

Asked to explain how HHS’s healthcare focused initiatives will be reconciled with restrictions targeting medical interventions for trans youth in conservative states, the official noted ongoing efforts to fight back – including by federal rulemaking and litigated challenges of policies that violate Americans’ rights.

When it comes to the actions previewed by Tanden, the official said, “Almost half of LGBTQI+ youth say they seriously considered committing suicide in the past year, and that attacks on their rights have made their mental health worse. That’s a serious crisis that we want to take on and this advisory will help.”

Additionally, they said, “HHS is announcing that they’re going to release new guidance to states to help them use federal funds to offer dedicated mental health services to the LGBTQI+ community,” while “the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMSA, is releasing $1.7 million in new federal funding for programs that support the health and mental health of LGBTQI+ youth by investing in programs that are focused on family affirmation.”

Responding to other questions about anti-LGBTQ legislation and the rising transphobic and anti-LGBTQ sentiment in America, the official offered some insight into the Biden-Harris administration’s positions on these matters more broadly.

“Part of our role here is to lift up the stories of transgender kids and their families to help the American people understand what is happening to families who, as the President says aren’t hurting anyone but are being hurt by these laws,” said the official.

“These aren’t just attacks on the rights of LGBTQI+{ Americans, they are part and parcel of a coordinated attack on our democracy,” they said. “We’re not just talking about laws that target transgender kids. These are really laws that get at the heart of our basic freedoms and values: the right to free expression, the right to make decisions about your own body, the right to parent and raise your children.”

The official added, “Opponents of LGBTQI+ Americans are leading a pretty significant campaign of disinformation,” which have included “the same types of hateful lies and stereotypes that have been used against our community really for decades and for generations.”

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