Biden, NY governor ramp up LGBTQ+ support
THE WHITE HOUSE—Amid an alarming trend of anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation sweeping America, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted the largest Pride Month celebration ever held at the White House.
It signified the Biden-Harris administration’s unequivocal support for the beleaguered LGBTQ+ community, which is battling more than 525 adverse state bills of which more than 70 have become law.
On June 8, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) declared a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans, citing the unprecedented number of state legislation attacking LGBTQ+ people across America, that has been introduced during the 2023 state legislative session. The HRC said it was its first emergency call in its nearly half-century history.
At the South Lawn of the White House last Saturday, more than 1,000 LGBTQ+ people gathered upon the President’s invitation. The Pride Month celebration was held “all-American picnic” style to emphasize that it’s all about family.
“Today, we are here to find joy,” First Lady Jill Biden told an appreciative crowd. “We want our kids just to be kids, running around and, hey, eating too much sugar; to laugh with the friends that we wish we saw more often; to find solace in the arms of people who see us for who we are; to celebrate the beauty and the resilience of this community.”
Mentioning the “push and pull of progress” threatening the LGBTQ+ community, Jill Biden noted that everyone deserves “the chance to be who we are and love who we love and make a good life for our families”.
In his speech, President Biden assured LGBTQ+ folk of his firm backing, citing accomplishments in providing protections for housing, employment, healthcare, education and the justice system, and “more proud staff at every level than any administration in American history” as proof of his commitment.
These measures include combatting dangerous and cruel practices of conversion therapy, the launch of a new national strategy to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, working with communities to treat and contain the M-pox outbreak, and ending the ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood.
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To ensure the physical safety of LGBTQ+ people, President Biden said the Department of Homeland Security is launching a safety partnership aimed at better protecting festivals, marches, community centers, businesses; keeping safe healthcare providers serving the community; and making it easier to report hate crimes.
The Biden-Harris administration is also pushing for passage of the Equality Act and a law banning assault weapons to complement the historic Respect for Marriage Act signed into law last December.
“When families across the country face excruciating decisions to relocate to a different state to protect their child from dangerous anti-LGBTQ laws, we have to act,” President Biden said in his speech.
“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 and freedoms we have as Americans — that’s not hyperbole; that’s a fact: the right to be yourself, the right to make your own health decisions, the right to raise your own children.”
He added: “Look, I think we can all agree: No one – no one should have to fear for their safety in this country. No one should be singled out or demonized or made to feel less than anyone else.”
Fil-Ams who were present at the White House event expressed gratitude for Biden’s all-out support for the LGBTQ+ community, hoping for more executive appointments representing the community.
“I think he’s made a lot of appointments already but I think it’s really important to do more. The more people that are LGBT in senior positions in federal government, the better off we are as a country because at the end of the day, representation is important,” said Jason Chan, a San Francisco Bay Area native who used to work with Edwin Lee and Gavin Newsom when they were mayor of San Francisco. He is currently a board member of the Alice B. Toklas LGTBQ Democratic Club.
Don Andres, chief of staff for Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-4th District, Illinois), “felt incredible” being at the White House Pride celebration.
“Just being out here and seeing the Pride flag flying, especially now when we have all these attacks across the country. We’re worried about our rights, we’re worried about what happens through court with choice and now it could be for LGBT marriage. It’s very concerning but like the First Lady said, it’s a minute to have a little joy outside of the work and the sacrifices that we put out every day. So it’s really incredible,” he said.
Recalling that it was the 2008 California proposition to ban gay marriage that had precipitated his involvement in political work, Andres expressed satisfaction with how the Biden-Harris administration continues to “deliver every day both on domestic policy and foreign policy but also for our rights, for women, for LGBT+ community” despite all the naysayers. “They just continue to lead the way and couldn’t be more proud. I’m just hoping that they continue to fight,” he said.
Jill Biden’s message about the need to find joy resonated as well with Gregory Cendana, president of consulting agency Can’t Stop! Won’t Stop! “I think today was an important reminder of the need for more joy in our lives especially in the midst of a very political turbulent time for our communities, in the LGBTQ+ community especially our transgender brothers, sisters and siblings. So I’m expecting and hoping that especially as President Biden and Vice President Harris continue and also campaign for their next term, that they not only include but center the most marginalized and oppressed of our communities in their policies and their decision-making and in how they run their campaign,” he told INQUIRER.net.
Melissa Sklarz, the first transgender woman elected official in New York, said it was her second White House invitation since Biden assumed the presidency. “President Biden has lived a life of love and loss. He does not take things for granted. He knows how important it is to celebrate with family and community, and I am always honored and humbled to be included,” she said.
Diversity is the strength of New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said as she hosted a reception at the Governor’s Mansion to celebrate Pride Month. It was the first time such a reception took place there.
“While other states are enshrining discrimination and bigotry against LGBTQ+ communities into law, New Yorkers are continuing to come together and lead the fight for fairness and equality,” said New York’s first woman governor.