President Joe Biden commemorated Pride Month by signing a new executive order on Wednesday that takes a number of steps aimed at shoring up equality for LGBTQ Americans, a move which comes amid a wave of Republican-led efforts in dozens of states to limit the rights of LGBTQ people.
At a Pride event at the White House where the signing took place, Biden was introduced by youth activist Javier Gomez, a Florida student who organized a school walkout against his state’s so-called Don’t Say Gay bill. The legislation bans certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. It was signed into law by Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in March.
Biden on Wednesday highlighted the threats to LGBTQ progress across the country – specifically pointing to the legislation brought forward by Republican lawmakers.
“No one knows better than the people in this room: We have a lot more work to do. … I don’t have to tell you about the ultra-MAGA agenda, attacking families and our freedoms,” Biden said, adding later, “All of you in this room know better than anyone, that these attacks are real and consequential for real families, for real families.”
Biden also brought up the recent arrests of 31 men in Idaho believed to be linked to a White nationalist group with plans to riot at a weekend Pride event, saying that “violent attacks on the community, including ongoing attacks on transgender women of color, make our nation less safe.”
“They’re disgusting. And they have to stop,” he said of the attacks.
With Democratic leadership in the room, the President also urged Congress to pass the Equality Act – which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect people from being discriminated based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and other services as well as access to public accommodations such as restaurants.
Biden’s new executive order includes actions to address legislative efforts in states across the country, protecting children from conversion therapy, safeguarding programs to prevent youth suicide and a new initiative to protect foster youth.
Ahead of Wednesday’s reception, a senior administration official told reporters that the executive order was another way Biden is standing up to “extreme MAGA laws and policies” that bully children.
“They bully kids: hateful, discriminatory laws that target children are out of line with where the American people are and President Biden is going to use his executive authority to protect kids and families,” the official said, calling the policies “un-American.”
“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 White House said in a fact sheet.
Biden 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,” the White House said.
The order also tasks HHS and the Federal Trade Commission to help reduce the practice of conversion therapy through clarification of guidance regarding federally funded programs and considering “whether the practice constitutes an unfair or deceptive act or practice, and whether to issue consumer warnings or notices,” per the fact sheet.
Additionally, the order takes steps toward boosting LGBTQ access to health care, as well as suicide prevention resources. And it will task HHS with “strengthening LGBTQI+ non-discrimination protections in the foster care system.” It takes numerous other steps, including expanding federal data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, support for older LGBTQ adults, and support for youth in juvenile justice systems.
The actions are being taken within existing budgets and resources, officials said.
The steps, the senior official said, “will improve the health, well-being, and safety of countless families across the country. And they will send a powerful signal from the President of the United States to LGBTQI kids across the country who may be feeling scared and hopeless that their President has their back.”
CNN’s Sam Fossum contributed to this report.