Joe Biden urges lawmakers to finally pass Equality Act in Pride Month proclamation

President Joe Biden stares off camera as he speaks to someone. He is wearing a white button up shirt, blue suit jacket and blue tie

President Joe Biden has condemned the onslaught of “dangerous” anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that’s left countless families in “fear and pain” in a Pride Month proclamation. 

In a proclamation recognising Pride Month issued on Tuesday (31 May), Biden said the rights of queer Americans have been under “relentless attack” as hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ measures were debated in state legislatures across the US. 

“Members of the LGBTQI+ community — especially people of colour and trans people — continue to face discrimination and cruel, persistent efforts to undermine their human rights,” Biden said.

He continued: “An onslaught of dangerous anti-LGBTQI+ legislation has been introduced and passed in states across the country, targeting transgender children and their parents and interfering with their access to health care.  

“These unconscionable attacks have left countless LGBTQI+ families in fear and pain.”

The president said this has had a detrimental impact on LGBTQ+ youth as figures from the Trevor Project – a suicide prevention and crisis intervention charity – revealed that 45 per cent of young queer people seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year. 

Biden described the figure as a “devastating reality” that America needs to grapple with and “must work urgently to address”. 

President Joe Biden stands at a podium while outside while wearing a white button up shirt, blue suit jacket and tie. He is pointing upwards with one finger on one hand

President Joe Biden said the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans bills have “left countless LGBTQI+ families in fear and pain”. (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

In his Pride Month proclamation, Joe Biden also called on Congress, once again, to pass the Equality Act to “enshrine long overdue civil rights protections” into law and “build a better future for all LGBTQI+ Americans”. 

The legislation quickly sailed through the House in February 2021 by a 224-206 vote, but things have stalled in the Senate. The chamber is equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, and a three-fifths majority is needed for any law to get through. 

But some members of the Senate have indicated they would filibuster the Equality Act, a move which allows individual senators to obstruct or slow down the legislation – even if it’s been approved by a majority.

In the face of hate, Biden reminded members of the LGBTQ+ community that they’re “loved and cherished”, and he will “always have your back” in the fight against discrimination. 

“My administration sees you for who you are — deserving of dignity, respect, and support,” he said. 

He continued: “As I said in my State of the Union address — especially to our younger transgender Americans — I will always have your back as your president so that you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential.  

“Today and every day, my administration stands with every LGBTQI+ American in the ongoing struggle against intolerance, discrimination and injustice.  

“We condemn the dangerous state laws and bills that target LGBTQI+ youth.  

“And we remain steadfast in our commitment to helping LGBTQI+ people in America and around the world live free from violence.”

Over 320 anti-LGBTQ+ bills – mostly targeting trans folk – are under consideration in state legislatures across the country, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). 

In March, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed the controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation into law. The measure, which goes into effect in July, will block discussions of LGBTQ+ topics in third grade or younger classrooms.

The legislation has inspired several copycat bills to pop up throughout the US

One high school student who is wearing a face mask speaks into a microphone as other young people stand behind them all holding LGBTQ+ flags, signs supporting the LGBTQ+ community. The group is standing on the steps to San Pedro High School

High school students rally in support of the LGBTQ+ community which is under attack in several states in light of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and anti-trans bills. (Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

One such measure was signed into law by Alabama governor Kay Ivey in April, which was attached to an anti-trans bathroom bill. The legislation bans classroom discussions on gender identity or sexual orientation from kindergarten through fifth grade or in a “manner that is not age-appropriate”. 

Additionally, several states have passed legislation restricting or outright banning how trans students can participate in school athletics. Republican governors have also approved measures that diminish how trans, non-binary and gender diverse youth can access gender-affirming healthcare.