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Pride Month proclamation: ‘Our nation faces another inflection point’

The statement reaffirms the Bide-Harris administration’s commitment to standing “proudly with the LGBTQI+ community

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The South Portico is illuminated in Pride colors in honor of the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act Tuesday, December 13, 2022, on the South Lawn of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)

WASHINGTON – Just as the 1969 Stonewall Riots marked a transformational time for LGBTQ civil rights in America, the country now faces another critical inflection point, President Joe Biden said in the White House’s proclamation Wednesday honoring Pride Month.

This moment is precipitated by the wave of hateful anti-LGBTQ legislation moving through state and local legislatures across the country and amid the escalating violence and threats of violence against the community, the statement notes:

“In 2023 alone, State and local legislatures have already introduced over 600 hateful laws targeting the LGBTQI+ community. Books about LGBTQI+ people are being banned from libraries. Transgender youth in over a dozen States have had their medically necessary health care banned. Homophobic and transphobic vitriol spewed online has spilled over into real life, as armed hate groups intimidate people at Pride marches and drag performances, and threaten doctors’ offices and children’s hospitals that offer care to the LGBTQI+ community. Our hearts are heavy with grief for the loved ones we have lost to anti-LGBTQI+ violence.”

Biden drew parallels between the “LGBTQI+ protestors” who “bravely stood their ground” against the law enforcement dispatched to arrest them more than 50 years ago and the youth organizers leading walkouts in response to discriminatory education laws, along with the “young people and their parents [who] are demonstrating unimaginable courage by testifying in State capitols in defense of their basic rights.”

The statement reaffirms the Bide-Harris administration’s commitment to standing “proudly with the LGBTQI+ community in the enduring struggle for freedom, justice, and equality,” chronicling some of the major steps the administration has taken on this front.

Biden highlighted his issuance, on his first day in office, of an Executive Order prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination, along with his signage last year of the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified protects for the rights of same-sex couples that might otherwise be jeopardized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority.

The statement then noted the administration’s moves to protect LGBTQ youth by ordering federal agencies to: combat conversion therapy, “end the crisis of homelessness among LGBTQI+ youth and adults,” and address anti-LGBTQ discrimination in foster care.

Meanwhile, Biden said, the U.S. Department of Justice is fighting against discriminatory laws targeting trans youth, while the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have drafted rules that would better protect anti-LGBTQ discrimination “in healthcare, at school, and in sports” and the White House is developing ways to combat online harassment and abuse that “disproportionately target LGBTQ people.”

Finally, the White House noted: its rollout last year of the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for LGBTQ youth, who can now reach specially trained counselors by dialing 988 and then 3; the administration’s appointment of historic numbers of LGBTQ appointees at all levels of the federal government; and its repeal of bans preventing trans people from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

From passing federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans via the Equality Act to addressing “the crisis of violence against transgender women and girls of color,” Biden acknowledged the work that lies ahead.

“This month and every month,” his proclamation concludes, “let us celebrate the pride that powers the movement for LGBTQI+ rights and commit to doing our part to help realize the promise of America, for all Americans.”

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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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Biden condemns signing of Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act

National Security Council ‘to evaluate’ law’s implications, U.S. engagement with country

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President Biden speaking in the Rose Garden earlier this month. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday condemned Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that the country’s president has signed.

“The enactment of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights — one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people, and one that jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country,” said Biden in his statement. “I join with people around the world — including many in Uganda — in calling for its immediate repeal. No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or being subjected to violence and discrimination. It is wrong.”

Biden notes “reports of violence and discrimination targeting Ugandans who are or are perceived to be LGBTQI+ are on the rise,” since MPs introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

“Innocent Ugandans now fear going to hospitals, clinics, or other establishments to receive life-saving medical care lest they be targeted by hateful reprisals. Some have been evicted from their homes or fired from their jobs. And the prospect of graver threats — including lengthy prison sentences, violence, abuse — threatens any number of Ugandans who want nothing more than to live their lives in safety and freedom,” said Biden.

“This shameful Act is the latest development in an alarming trend of human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda. The dangers posed by this democratic backsliding are a threat to everyone residing in Uganda, including U.S. government personnel, the staff of our implementing partners, tourists, members of the business community and others,” added Biden. 

The version of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that President Yoweri Museveni signed contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

Biden in his statement notes he has “directed my National Security Council to evaluate the implications of this law on all aspects of U.S. engagement with Uganda, including our ability to safely deliver services under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other forms of assistance and investments. My administration will also incorporate the impacts of the law into our review of Uganda’s eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).”  

“We are considering additional steps, including the application of sanctions and restriction of entry into the United States against anyone involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption,” he said.

Ugandan media reports indicate the U.S. has revoked Parliament Speaker Anita Among’s visa.

“The United States shares a deep and committed partnership with the people of Uganda. For more than 60 years, we have worked together to help millions of Ugandans live healthier, more productive lives,” said Biden in his statement. “Our programs have boosted economic growth and agricultural productivity, increased investments in Ugandan businesses, and strengthened our trade cooperation. In total, the U.S. government invests nearly $1 billion annually in Uganda’s people, business, institutions, and military to advance our common agenda. The scale of our commitments speaks to the value we place on this partnership — and our faith in the people of Uganda to build for themselves a better future. It is my sincere hope that we can continue to build on this progress, together and strengthen protections for the human rights of people everywhere.”
 

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Biden admin unveils new actions to protect youth online

Work product will include resources for parents to better protect their children’s mental health, safety, and privacy online

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Segment on social media platforms' harms to minors (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News)

WASHINGTON – The Biden-Harris administration announced a slate of new actions on Tuesday that are designed to better protect youth on social media and online platforms by applying a whole-of-government approach to address issues concerning mental health, safety, and privacy.

The White House noted that “undeniable” evidence links these technologies to the country’s “unprecedented youth mental health crisis,” with rates of depression and anxiety rising sharply among young people, including LGBTQ students, 69% of whom report having persistent feelings of sadness.

New actions previewed by the administration’s fact sheet [HYPERLINK] include the creation of an interagency Task Force on Kids Online Health & Safety, which will be administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in coordination with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The task force will develop a blueprint for new research on the harms and health benefits to minors caused by online platforms, “recommend measures and methods for assessing, preventing, and mitigating” the harms, and “recommend best practices and technical standards for transparency reports and audits related to online harms to the privacy, health, and safety of children and teenagers.”

Work product from the task force will include resources for parents and legal guardians to better protect their children’s mental health, safety, and privacy online, as well as “voluntary guidance, policy recommendations, and a toolkit on safety, health, and privacy-by-design” for industry, with the latter expected by Spring 2024.

Other initiatives highlighted in the administration’s fact sheet include rulemaking by the U.S. Department of Education to protect the privacy of minor students’ data and address concerns with its monetization. The agency will also be tasked with drafting “model policies and voluntary best practices for school districts on the use of internet-enabled devices.”

Additionally, the White House announced, the Commerce Department will work to curb the online harassment and abuse of minors by “promoting awareness of services and support for youth victims,” while the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will coordinate efforts with the U.S. Department of Justice on new approaches to “detect and investigate offenses involving child sexual abuse material.”

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