Joe Biden urges Congress to pass Equality Act at SOTU address – amid jeers from Republicans

Joe Biden during the State of the Union address

Joe Biden vowed to ensure the protection of LGBTQ+ groups through calls to pass the Equality Act, but activists aren’t sure it’s enough.

The 46th US president vowed to do everything he could to bring about the passing of the Equality Act – which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity – during the State of the Union address on Tuesday (7 February).

Biden emphasised the “duty” of lawmakers to protect people’s rights at all costs, noting last year’s overturning of Roe v Wade by the Supreme Court as a warning of what’s to come if something isn’t done to enshrine equality in federal law.

“If Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it,” he said. “Let’s also pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ+ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity.”

The pledge was met with rapturous applause in the chamber, which houses members of the US Congress.

Despite this, several anti-LGBTQ+ pundits showed their opposition to Biden’s presidency through audible jeers and insults.

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Republican Marjorie Taylor Green could be seen calling Biden a “liar” during his speech, while other far-right Republicans joined in with insults.

Outside of the House, activists commended the call to protect LGBTQ+ people across the country, but urged Biden to put his money where his mouth is.

LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis told PinkNews: “In re-upping his call for Congress to pass the Equality Act and protect transgender youth, the president is leading by example to expand freedom so no one is left behind.

“The call is urgent. LGBTQ Americans’ safety and dignity are under attack in state legislatures across the country, and our protections are at risk from the hostile majority on the US Supreme Court.”

She added that lawmakers must “speak up for LGBTQ+ people” and secure anti-discriminatory legislation as soon as possible.

Members of the US Congress applauud Joe Biden.
Members of the US Congress applauded Biden’s pledge to help LGBTQ+ people. (Getty)

2022 was an incredibly chaotic year for LGBTQ+ and minority rights in the US, with hundreds of discriminatory legislation being filed and anti-LGBTQ+ attacks skyrocketing.

While the Biden administration has done work to tackle some of the problems that LGBTQ+ people face on a daily basis – including the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act – several groups have urged him to do more in tackling homophobia in the states.

Research from The Trevor Project has found that 36 per cent of LGBTQ+ youth in the US have been physically threatened or harmed due to their sexual orientation.

Additionally, 60 per cent were not able to access support when they needed it.

“Let’s do more on mental health,” Biden said during Tuesday’s address. “Especially for our children. When millions of young people are struggling with bullying, violence, and trauma, we owe them greater access to mental health care.”

If January’s onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ bills is anything to go by, it appears that 2023 would be no different, which further presents the need for discrimination protection in the country.

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