President Joe Biden attacked “ultra MAGA laws” on Wednesday, June 15 and signed an executive order to roll back a wave of anti-LGBTQI+ laws. He condemned hundreds of these “ultra MAGA” laws that discriminate against gays and transgender people. Signing the executive order aimed at reducing the impact of more than 300 laws, the president described it as a battle for the soul of the nation.
“I don’t have to tell you about the ultra-MAGA agenda, the attacks on families and our freedoms,” Biden said at an event marking Pride Month at the White House. “Three hundred discriminatory bills introduced in the states of this country…”
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Biden added, “In Texas, knocking on front doors to harass and investigate parents raising transgender children. ‘In Florida, prosecute Mickey Mouse for god’s sake.’ Florida conservatives have turned on Disney over its opposition to a law that banned teachers from having discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms – dubbed by opponents of the bill “Don ‘t Say Gay”.
The executive actions unveiled June 15 require the Department of Health and Human Services to work with states to expand gender-affirming care. It directs the department to expand access to youth mental health counseling and strengthen protections against discrimination in the foster care system. The department is also supposed to clarify that federally funded programs cannot offer “conversion therapy,” a practice that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“My order will use the full force of the federal government to prevent the inhumane practices of conversion therapy,” Biden said. “This is the first time the federal government has used a coordinated response against this dangerous and discredited practice.”
Biden has appreciated key gay and transgender officials in his administration, including Admiral Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health and the nation’s first openly transgender four-star uniformed services officer. He also saluted Shawn Skelly, Undersecretary of Defense. “The first and second transgender Americans to be confirmed to the Senate in American history,” Biden said. The president also praised Javier Garcia, a gay Florida student who walked out of his school to protest Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill. Garcia, who shared the stage with Biden, also described how he was bullied.
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Javier Gomez, 18, had led walkouts to protest Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. Speaking about being bullied, Garcia said: “But I had an escape: my openly gay fifth grade teacher. He created a classroom where I felt welcome. I remember even noticing his rainbow socks.”
“I fear that students in Florida and across the country cannot get the same support because of hate legislation,” he said. “My presence here testifies that we fight back… Because our lives are glorious, beautiful and dignified. We deserve respect and love. Until we have that, we will continue to fight for liberation. …I’m fighting for the next little Javier so he doesn’t have to cry himself to sleep every night hoping he wakes up normally.
The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law limits ‘classroom teaching’ on ‘sexual orientation or gender identity’. It says such instruction “cannot take place in kindergarten through 3rd grade or in a manner that is not appropriate for the age or development of the students in accordance with state standards.” It also prohibits “classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity at certain grade levels or in a specific manner.”
“We are in a battle for the very soul of this nation,” Biden said. “And that’s not hyperbole. We’re in a battle for the soul of the nation. When I look around this room here and all you hear today, it’s a battle I know that we win.” In a message to young LGBT+ Americans, the president said, “Just be you. You are loved. You are heard. You are understood. You belong. I want you to know that as president, all of us on this stage have your back.