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Biden to sign historic Executive Order advancing LGBTQ+ equality

The EO is the latest measure from the Biden administration building on its reputation for steadfast support for trans & non-binary youth

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The President speaking to reporters earlier this year (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden, in recognition of LGBTQ+ Pride month during a reception with LGBTQ+ leaders and advocates at the White House, is set to sign Wednesday a wide-ranging executive order advancing his administration’s goals for LGBTQ policy, which includes new prohibitions on widely discredited conversion therapy and resources for parents and children in states enacting laws against transgender youth.

The executive order is the latest measure from the Biden administration building on its reputation for steadfast support for transgender and non-binary youth, who are the targets of more than 300 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation in state legislatures and new state laws. Many of these measures ban transgender girls from sports consistent with their gender identity or penalize medical providers and parents for providing transition-related care for youth.

Key components of Biden’s order direct U.S. departments and agencies, including the Department of Health & Human Services and the Department of Education, to develop regulations and policies that would counteract the state measures, according to a White House fact sheet.

Among the components of the directive:

  • HHS and the Department of Education are tasked with developing sample policies for states on expanding access to health care for LGBTQ youth and developing policies for “achieving full inclusion for LGBTQ students”;
  • HHS is tasked with leading an initiative against conversion therapy, which is set to clarify federal funds cannot be used for the practice, increase public awareness about its harms and provide support to survivors;
  • the secretaries of State, Treasury, and HHS are directed to develop an action plan to promote an end to conversion therapy overseas and ensure that U.S. foreign assistance dollars don’t fund the practices;
  • HHS is set to publish a “Bill of Rights for LGBTQI+ Older Adults” as well as guidance on the non-discrimination protections for older adults in nursing homes and other long-term care settings.

In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday ahead of the signing of the executive order, senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity laid out the key components of the measure and put the executive order into context of the Biden administration’s broader mission for equity and inclusion.

Asked by the Washington Blade if the White House is anticipating a response from states that have enacted laws against transgender and non-binary youth, many of which have taken the Biden administration to court over federal policies, a senior administration official declined to say.

“We don’t know,” the official said. “The focus is not really on what their response will be. What we’re focused on is responding to the frankly un-American policies they’re pushing through state legislatures. They’re going after kids, they’re going after families just because of who they are, and the president has said repeatedly that he will stand with LGBTQI youth and families and people across the country. That’s what this executive order is going to do.”

The executive order, however, falls short of the Biden campaign’s pledge to sign the Equality Act into law, which in the 2020 election he promised he would do within the first 100 days of his administration. Although the comprehensive LGBTQ legislation has cleared the House, it is all but dead in the Senate and has yet to come up for a vote.

Asked why Biden hasn’t placed as much emphasis on the Equality Act as other legislative measures, such as the Build Back Better package or voting rights legislation, a senior administration official shot back that was at odds with the facts.

“The president is a strong supporter of the Equality Act and he has not wavered in that,” the official said. “He continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act. You heard him renew that call during the State of the Union address … Any assertion that he hasn’t been full-throated on that is just completely at odds with the facts. The president today will reiterate the need to sign this legislation into law.”

Fact sheet released by the White House:

President Biden believes that no one should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love. Since President Biden took office, he has championed the rights of LGBTQI+ Americans and people around the world, accelerating the march towards full equality.

As President Biden said during his first joint address to Congress, the President has the back of LGBTQI+ people across the country. That is why he taking these bold actions and continuing to fight for full equality for every American – including urging Congress pass the Equality Act and provide overdue civil rights protections for LGBTQI+ people. 

Today, to mark Pride Month, President Biden will sign an Executive Order Advancing Equality for LGBTQI+ Individuals, and he will welcome LGBTQI+ families, advocates, elected officials, and leaders to the White House for a reception. 

President Biden’s Executive Order builds on the historic progress he has made for LGBTQI+ people by:

  • Addressing discriminatory legislative attacks against LGBTQI+ children and families, directing key agencies to protect families and children; 
  • Preventing so-called “conversion therapy” with a historic initiative to protect children from the harmful practice;
  • Safeguarding health care, and programs designed to prevent youth suicide;
  • Supporting LGBTQI+ children and families by launching a new initiative to protect foster youth, prevent homelessness, and improve access to federal programs; and
  • Taking new, additional steps to advance LGBTQI+ equality. 

ADDRESSING DISCRIMINATORY LEGISLATIVE ATTACKS

Over 300 anti-LGBTQI+ laws have been introduced in state legislatures over the past year, and many of them specifically target transgender children and their parents by banning access to medical care and support at school. President Biden 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. 

To help support impacted families, 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. The President is also 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. 

ADDRESSING “CONVERSION THERAPY”

As a candidate, President Biden pledged to help end so-called “conversion therapy” – a discredited and dangerous practice that seeks to suppress or change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQI+ people. Today, President Biden is using his executive authority to launch an initiative to protect children across America and crack down on this harmful practice, which every major medical association in the United States has condemned. 

Children who are exposed to so-called “conversion therapy” face higher rates of attempted suicide and trauma. Numerous states across the country have already passed bipartisan laws to prevent exposure to so-called “conversion therapy,” with Republican and Democratic governors signing state bans on conversion therapy into law. Yet despite these efforts, many people in the United States and around the world are still subjected to this practice. 

President Biden is charging HHS with leading an initiative to reduce the risk of youth exposure to this dangerous practice. HHS will explore guidance to clarify that federally-funded programs cannot offer so-called “conversion therapy.” HHS will also increase public awareness about its harms, provide training and technical assistance to health care providers, and expand support for services to help survivors. 

President Biden is also encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to consider whether the practice constitutes an unfair or deceptive act or practice, and whether to issue consumer warnings or notices. And, he is directing the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and HHS to develop an action plan to promote an end to so-called “conversion therapy” around the world and ensure that U.S. foreign assistance dollars do not fund the practice.

SAFEGUARDING HEALTH CARE AND PREVENTING LGBTQI+ YOUTH SUICIDE

Because of discrimination and bullying, nearly half of LGBTQI+ youth seriously considered suicide last year. LGBTQI+ people of all ages also face significant barriers to accessing health care, and LGBTQI+ patients face significant health disparities. To safeguard access to health care for LGBTQI+ patients and address the LGBTQI+ youth mental health crisis, President Biden is charging HHS with taking steps to address the barriers and exclusionary policies that LGBTQI+ individuals and families face in accessing quality, affordable, comprehensive health care, including mental health care, reproductive health care, and HIV prevention and treatment. The President’s Order charges HHS to work with states to promote expanded access to gender-affirming care. It also charges HHS to help prevent LGBTQI+ suicide by expanding youth access to suicide prevention resources, and to issue new guidance through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration on providing evidence-informed mental health care for LGBTQI+ youth. 

SUPPORTING LGBTQI+ CHILDREN AND FAMILIES 

LGBTQI+ children and families deserve the same dignity and respect as all American families. But LGBTQI+ children and families continue to face significant barriers and discrimination. For LGBTQI+ young people, family rejection can lead to disproportionately high rates of homelessness and over-representation in foster care. And for LGBTQI+ parents and households, significant barriers remain in accessing vital government benefits and services, and achieving housing security. Providing these young Americans and families with the resources and support they need will help ensure more children and families have access to loving homes that decrease the risk of abuse and suicide. 
President Biden’s Executive Order will:

  • Address discrimination and barriers faced by LGBTQI+ youth, parents, caretakers, and families in foster care. Although LGBTQI+ parents play a vital role in ensuring that every child in America has a loving home, and are seven times more likely to adopt a child from foster care, these parents continue to face barriers and biases in the child welfare system. To address these disparities, President Biden is charging HHS with strengthening LGBTQI+ non-discrimination protections in the foster care system. His Executive Order also charges HHS with launching a new initiative to partner with state child welfare agencies to improve outcomes for LGBTQI+ youth in care; increase training for child welfare personnel on best practices for supporting LGBTQI+ youth; promote placements of children into environments that will support their sexual orientation and gender identity; and study and address the disproportionate rates of child removals that LGBTQI+ parents face, especially women of color.
     
  • Support families with LGBTQI+ youth. When youth come out as LGBTQI+, parents and family members often seek help to learn how to best support their child. When children face rejection by their families, they risk higher rates of homelessness and attempted suicide. To support families with LGBTQI+ youth, President Biden is directing HHS to expand access to voluntary family counseling and support programs to help support youth and families. The President’s Executive Order also charges the Center for Disease Control and Prevention with researching the impacts of family rejection on the mental health and long-term wellbeing of LGBTQI+ individuals.
     
  • Review access, and barriers, for families to federal programs and benefits. In spite of important progress in ensuring that same-sex married couples can access federal programs, many LGBTQI+ families continue to face barriers in accessing vital benefits and services. For LGBTQI+ people who have faced family rejection and rely on family structures without legal or blood ties, these barriers can be particularly pronounced. To strengthen supports for all families, the President’s Executive Order directs HHS to conduct a study of how current eligibility standards for federal programs impact LGBTQI+ and other households, and issue recommendations for more inclusive standards. The Executive Order also directs the Office of Management and Budget to coordinate with agencies as they seek opportunities to implement those recommendations in their programs and services. 
     
  • Address LGBTQI+ homelessness and housing instability. President Biden is directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development with launching a new Working Group on LGBTQI+ Homelessness and Housing Equity. That Working Group will lead new efforts to identity and address the barriers to housing faced by LGBTQI+ people, provide guidance and technical assistance to housing providers on serving LGBTQI+ individuals, and seek new funding opportunities for culturally appropriate services that address barriers to housing for LGBTQI+ individuals. 
     
  • Support LGBTQI+ students in our Nation’s schools and educational institutions. The President’s Executive Order directs the Department of Education to establish a new Working Group on LGBTQI+ Students and Families, which will advance policies for states, school districts, and other educational institutions to promote safe and inclusive learning environments in which all students thrive.
     
  • Support LGBTQI+ youth in juvenile justice systems. The Executive Order charges the Attorney General with establishing a new clearinghouse within the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to provide effective training, technical assistance, and other resources for jurisdictions to better serve LGBTQI+ youth involved in the juvenile justice system. 

ADDITIONAL STEPS TO ADVANCE LGBTQI+ EQUALITY
President Biden’s Executive Order also includes additional new steps to advance LGBTQI+ equality, including:

  • Strengthen supports for LGBTQI+ older adults. Older LGBTQI+ people face significant rates of discrimination, isolation, and poverty. The President’s Executive Order directs HHS to publish a “Bill of Rights for LGBTQI+ Older Adults” and new guidance on the non-discrimination protections for older adults in long-term care settings. It also charges HHS with exploring new rulemaking to establish that LGBTQI+ individuals are included in the definition of populations of “greatest social need” under the Older Americans Act.
     
  • Promote expanded federal data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity. To strengthen the federal collection of sexual orientation and gender identity (“SOGI”) data, the President’s Executive Order establishes a new federal coordinating committee on SOGI data, which will lead efforts across agencies to identify opportunities to strengthen SOGI data collection, while safeguarding privacy protections and civil rights for LGBTQI+ individuals.

BUILDING ON HISTORIC PROGRESS

Today’s announcements build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic progress to advance LGBTQI+ equality since taking office, including:

  • Strengthening civil rights protections. On his first day in office, President Biden signed an Executive Order on preventing and combatting discrimination against LGBTQI+ Americans. 
     
  • Ending the ban on transgender servicemembers, and supporting LGBTQI+ service members and veterans. President Biden rescinded the discriminatory ban on transgender servicemembers, and the Department of Defense announced that HIV-positive service members with an undetectable viral load will no longer be categorically barred from deploying worldwide or commissioning, nor will they be discharged or separated, solely on the basis of their HIV-positive status. The Department of Veterans Affairs also strengthened services and supports for LGBTQI+ veterans, including by removing the outdated ban on comprehensive gender-affirming care for transgender veterans.
     
  • Fighting back against state-level attacks on LGBTQI+ children. The Department of Justice has intervened and filed statements of interest in lawsuits across the country challenging state laws that seek to ban transgender children from accessing gender-affirming health care and participating in school activities as unconstitutional. 
     
  • Advancing human rights for LGBTQI+ people in America’s foreign policy. President Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World, and  appointed the first Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons at the State Department. 
     
  • Strengthening supports and protections for transgender Americans. The State Department now offers an “X” gender marker option to ensure nonbinary Americans can access an accurate federal ID. The Department of Homeland Security announced reforms to address barriers and heightened screening that transgender travelers often face in U.S. airports. The Department of Housing and Urban Development also restored key protections to ensure that transgender people experiencing homelessness can access emergency shelters consistent with their gender identity. 
     
  • Fighting for passage of the Equality Act. President Biden continues to call on the Senate to swiftly pass the Equality Act, legislation, which will provide long overdue federal civil rights protections to LGBTQI+ Americans and their families.
     
  • Renewing the U.S. government’s commitment to ending the HIV epidemic at home and around the world.  President Biden released a new National HIV/AIDS Strategy  to lead us toward ending the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030. The President reestablished the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and has made historic investments in ending the HIV epidemic globally. 
     
  • Appointing LGBTQI+ leaders to the highest levels of our government. President Biden has appointed a historically diverse Administration, including Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay Cabinet Secretary; Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender person ever confirmed by the U.S. Senate; Ambassador Chantale Wong, the first open lesbian to achieve the rank of Ambassador; and the first openly gay White House Counsel, Stuart Delery. Fourteen percent of the President’s appointees identify as LGBTQI+. 
     
  • Ensuring the federal government is a model employer for LGBTQI+ public servants. President Biden signed an Executive Order on Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce, with key provisions for LGBTQI+ public servants.
     
  • Celebrating Pride at home and around the world. Pride is back at the White House and federal buildings throughout the country are proudly flying Pride flags this month. The State Department announced it will allow U.S. embassies and diplomatic outposts to fly the Pride flag on the same flagpole as the U.S. flag at their embassy or consulate.
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White House, Don’t Say Gay law: “This is discrimination, plain and simple”

“State officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves”

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (The White House)

WASHINGTON – The White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement Friday as Florida’s notorious ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law took effect, saying “[…] state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves.”

President Biden also tweeted about the law prior to leaving for Camp David to spend the July 4th holiday weekend, calling the law “the latest attempt by Republicans in state houses to target LGBTQI+ students, teachers, and families.”

In her statement, Jean-Pierre said:

“Today, some of Florida’s most vulnerable students and families are more fearful and less free. As the state’s shameful “Don’t Say Gay” law takes effect, state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves.

“Already, there have been reports that “Safe Space” stickers are being taken down from classrooms. Teachers are being instructed not to wear rainbow clothing. LGBTQI+ teachers are being told to take down family photos of their husbands and wives—cherished family photos like the ones on my own desk.

“This is not an issue of “parents’ rights.” This is discrimination, plain and simple. It’s part of a disturbing and dangerous nationwide trend of right-wing politicians cynically targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals to score political points.

“It encourages bullying and threatens students’ mental health, physical safety, and well-being. It censors dedicated teachers and educators who want to do the right thing and support their students. And it must stop.

“President Biden has been very clear that every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom.

“The Department of Education will be monitoring this law, and any student or parent who believes they are experiencing discrimination is encouraged to file a complaint with the Department’s Office for Civil Rights.

“Our Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family—in Florida and around the country.”

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White House announces 17 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients

The nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom will be presented to those named at the White House on July 7, 2022

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Megan Rapinoe, an Out Olympic gold medalist is among those named ((Screenshot/YouTube via U.S. Soccer )

WASHINGTON – The White House today released President Joe Biden’s selection of recipients for bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor,  the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The awards will be presented at the White House on July 7, 2022.

Included among the seventeen honorees are Megan Rapinoe, the Out Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Also selected by the president for a posthumous recognition was Richard Trumka, the powerful labor leader and longtime Democratic ally of the LGBTQ+ community who passed away last August. Trumka had led the AFL-CIO since 2009 and who throughout his career, was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ Americans, social and economic justice.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.

Presidential Medal of Freedom (The White House)

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Simone Biles
Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history, with a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. Biles is also a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.

Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbell is a member of the Sisters of Social Service and former Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is also a prominent advocate for economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare policy.

Julieta García
Dr. Julieta García is the former president of The University of Texas at Brownsville, where she was named one of Time magazine’s best college presidents. Dr. García was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president and dedicated her career to serving students from the Southwest Border region.

Gabrielle Giffords
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, serving first in the Arizona legislature and later in the U.S. Congress. A survivor of gun violence, she co-founded Giffords, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention.

Fred Gray
Fred Gray was one of the first black members of the Alabama State legislature since Reconstruction. As an attorney, he represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, who called him “the chief counsel for the protest movement.”

Steve Jobs (posthumous)
Steve Jobs (d. 2011) was the co-founder, chief executive, and chair of Apple, Inc., CEO of Pixar and held a leading role at the Walt Disney Company. His vision, imagination and creativity led to inventions that have, and continue to, change the way the world communicates, as well as transforming the computer, music, film and wireless industries.

Father Alexander Karloutsos
Father Alexander Karloutsos is the former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. After over 50 years as a priest, providing counsel to several U.S. presidents, he was named by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as a Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Khizr Khan
Khizr Khan is a Gold Star father and founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center. He is a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom and served on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden.

Sandra Lindsay
Sandra Lindsay is a New York critical care nurse who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response. She was the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and is a prominent advocate for vaccines and mental health for health care workers.

John McCain (posthumous)
John McCain (d. 2018) was a public servant who was awarded a Purple Heart with one gold star for his service in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. He also served the people of Arizona for decades in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and was the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

Diane Nash
Diane Nash is a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century. Nash worked closely with Martin Luther King, who described her as the “driving spirit in the nonviolent assault on segregation at lunch counters.”

Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Alan Simpson
Alan Simpson served as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming for 18 years. During his public service, he has been a prominent advocate on issues including campaign finance reform, responsible governance, and marriage equality.

Richard Trumka (posthumous)
Richard Trumka (d. 2021) was president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade, president of the United Mine Workers, and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Throughout his career, he was an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice.

Wilma Vaught
Brigadier General Wilma Vaught is one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military, repeatedly breaking gender barriers as she rose through the ranks. When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women generals in the Armed Forces.

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is an actor, director, and producer who has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served as National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.

Raúl Yzaguirre
Raúl Yzaguirre is a civil rights advocate who served as CEO and president of National Council of La Raza for thirty years. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under President Barack Obama.

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The White House

White House says U.S. made clear WNBA’s Griner ‘unjustly detained’

The U.S. government “is actively engaged in trying to resolve this case and get Brittney home,” the White House said

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Air Force One arrives at Torrejón Air Base outside Madrid, Spain June 28, 2022 (Screenshot/YouTube VOA)

MADRID, Torrejón Air Base, Spain – White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday he has spoken in the last few days with the wife of Brittney Griner as part of a larger effort within the Biden administration to secure the release of the Out lesbian basketball player in Russia whom supporters say is being unlawfully detained.

Sullivan made the comments speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One during President Biden’s trip to Europe in response to a question about efforts within the Biden administration to bring Griner home ahead of her expected trial in Russia.

“So first, Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained, unjustly detained, and we have made that clear as an official determination of the U.S. government,” Sullivan said. “Second, the Russian government should release her and allow her to be returned and reunited with her family and come home safe and sound.”

Sullivan added he — as well as Secretary of State Antony Blinken — have spoken with Griner’s wife Cherelle, to “convey our very deep sympathy, to convey that, you know, we just can’t even begin to imagine what the family must be going through, what Brittney — what Brittney must be going through.”

Griner, a professional basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury within the Women’s National Basketball Association, was detained in February by Russian Customs on allegations that cartridges of hashish oil were found in her luggage. Griner had gone to Russia to play with the Russian Premier League during the WNBA off-season.

Sullivan said the U.S. government “is actively engaged in trying to resolve this case and get Brittney home,” but added he’s constrained in what he could say because of confidentiality about the sensitive issue.

“But I will tell you it has the fullest attention of the president and every senior member of his national security and diplomatic team,” Sullivan said. “And we are actively working to find a resolution to this case, and will continue to do so without rest until we get Brittney safely home.”

The Biden administration, Sullivan added, is additionally working to return all unjustly detained Americans and hostages being held overseas,” including detainees in Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, Venezuela, and China.

The Washington Blade has placed a request with the State Department for a readout on Blinken’s role in the Biden administration’s talks with Griner.

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