By Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden warned Thursday about “ugly” attacks from “hysterical” people who are targeting LGBTQ+ Americans, as he announced new measures intended to curb book bans and rising hate crimes.
“We have some hysterical and, I would argue, prejudiced, people” engaged in targeting LGBTQ people, Biden said. “It’s an appeal to fear and it’s an appeal that is totally, thoroughly unjustified, ugly,” he said.
Biden also criticized a flurry of Republican bills targeting the community, and particularly transgender youth. “These are our kids, these are our neighbors. It’s cruel, it’s callous. They’re not somebody’s else’s kids, they’re all our kids,” he told reporters during a news conference.
The president was expected to deliver remarks on the issue at a White House party on Thursday evening, but the event was pushed back to Saturday due to smoke from the Canadian wildfires.
Forest fires continued to burn across Canada on Thursday as the country endured its worst-ever start to wildfire season, sending a smoky haze billowing across U.S. cities and grounding flights.
Biden also announced new measures Thursday to help schools and LGBTQ kids navigate book bans, community centers fight threats, transgender youth access better care, and urged Congress to pass the Equality Act.
“LGBTQ Americans, especially children, you’re loved, you’re heard and this administration has your back,” Biden said. “I mean it. We are not relenting one single second.”
Republican-led states have signed a flurry of bills targeting transgender youth. Some states have banned teachers of younger children from discussing gender or sexuality and conservative lawmakers have proposed or passed laws restricting drag performances.
In April, the White House warned that bills targeting LGBTQ kids and gender-affirming care for youth set a dangerous precedent.
Biden announced a new coordinator to train schools on how to deal with book bans, the impact they have on LGBTQ kids and how they violate civil rights laws.
He also said there would be new federal coordination to “better protect Pride celebrations, marches, community centers, healthcare providers and small businesses, and new resources for mental health care providers supporting transgender kids.
Florida has been at the forefront of restrictions aimed at the LGBTQ community under Governor Ron DeSantis, who says he is protecting children, and recently entered the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination to challenge Biden.
Biden’s own views on gay rights have evolved over his decades in public life. A watershed moment was his endorsement of same-sex marriage in 2012 as vice president, which pushed then-President Barack Obama to express his support for gay marriage a few days later.
As president, Biden has overturned a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, issued a new order to stop conversion therapy and signed the Respect for Marriage Act, which federally recognizes same-sex marriages, into law.
American support for same-sex marriage has doubled since the late 1990s to more than 70%, Gallup polls show, and the percentage of people who identify as LGBTQ has doubled in the past decade to over 7%.
On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in the United States, declared its first national state of emergency, citing the proliferation of anti-LGBTQ legislation in statehouses across the country.
More than 70 bills HRC considers anti-LGBTQ were passed in statehouses this legislative session, double last year’s previous record, and over 500 were introduced.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Trevor Hunnicutt, Heather Timmons, Gerry Doyle and Jonathan Oatis)