White House isn’t ruling out legal action against cruel anti-trans bills

White House press secretary Jen Psaki

The White House is not ruling out any legal action being taken in the future against states in which lawmakers are pushing anti-trans laws, including banning transgender athletes from female sports teams.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday (8 April) that president Joe Biden would continue to advocate for LGBT+ rights amid the flurry of new state laws against trans youth. But she stopped short of committing to any legal action against them.

Chris Johnson, the White House correspondent for the Washington Blade, asked Psaki if Biden would “reach out to the attorney general” to begin legal action against states which enacted anti-trans bills. He pointed out that state legislatures had been ‘warned’ that “anti-transgender bills are an illegal form of sex discrimination”.

Johnson specifically cited the actions of the Arkansas legislature, which overrode its governor’s veto to pass an anti-trans healthcare bill. The cruel ban, which passed into law on Tuesday (6 April), makes it illegal for healthcare professionals in Arkansas to offer gender-affirming care like puberty blockers and hormone treatment to trans youth.

Arkansas has also become the second state to ban transgender athletes from female sports teams. Mississippi’s governor has also signed a law banning transgender athletes from girls’ school sports.

Psaki said she can’t “stand here and predict legal action” as the ultimate decision on if action would go forward lies with the Justice Department and attorney general, Merrick Garland. However, she said Joe Biden remains committed to advocating for LGBT+ rights and transgender equality in the US.

“What I can say is that the president’s view is that all persons should receive equal treatment under law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Psaki said.

“That’s fundamental to how he will make laws — advocate for laws, I should say; how he will communicate about his views on the rights of transgender individuals in the country; and certainly, you know, what his view is as it relates to any actions by the government.”

In a follow-up question, Johnson asked if Biden would engage in communication with Garland about the anti-trans legislation. Psaki said the president “certainly can”, but she reiterated: “I don’t have anything to predict for you at this time.”

Garland has said he will advocate for stronger protections for trans Americans. In a hearing before the Senate about his nomination to the office of the attorney general, he promised to combat violence against the trans committee, especially Black, trans women, in the US.

He said it was the “job of the Justice Department to stop” the murders of transgender Americans and protect trans youth. Garland said: “It’s clear to me that this kind of hateful activity has to stop, and yes, we need to put resources into it.”

But in the same hearing, Garland dodged questions about bans on transgender athletes being included in girls’ and women’s sports. He declined to comment on questions, saying he hasn’t had the “chance to consider these kinds of issues” in his career.

However, he said: “I think every human being should be treated with dignity and respect, and that’s an overriding sense of my own character but an overriding sense of what the law requires.”

You can read more about transgender athletes here.