The White House announced a new set of actions to protect youth members of the LGBTQ community from political attacks by Republicans across the country, including appointing a new coordinator to combat the national surge of school book bans and providing a $1.7 million grant for youth mental health services.
The joint Biden-Harris announcement comes as Republican-backed anti-LGBTQ legislation has overtaken the nation. In just 2023 alone, almost 500 such bills have been introduced across various states — such as Louisiana, Florida and Montana. Many of the bills have targeted limiting gender-affirming care, transgender youth sport participation, drag shows and discussions of gender and sexuality in schools.
As part of the announcement, the Biden administration said that the Department of Education would be appointing a new coordinator that would address the uptick in schools banning books that focus on LGBTQ and civil rights issues.
The administration announced the multi-agency effort ahead of the White House’s official Pride Month event, which was originally slated to take place Thursday, but was rescheduled to Saturday due to poor air quality conditions driven by Canada’s wildfires.
“We have some hysterical and, I would argue prejudiced, people who are engaged in all that you see going on around the country,” President Joe Biden said during a press conference on Thursday. “It’s an appeal to fear, and it’s an appeal that is totally, thoroughly, unjustified and ugly.”
The announcement includes news that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), along with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will form the LGBTQI+ Community Safety Partnership to aid community organizations with safety training, protecting health care workers and reporting and addressing hate crimes.
The administration has also committed to supporting the mental health of youth in the LGBTQ community by providing plans for federal funds going towards mental health services for LGBTQ youth. HHS also will provide the LGBTQI+ Family Support Grant of $1.7 million to support the mental health of LGBTQ youth.
On top of that, the administration says it will address LGBTQ youth homelessness with the help of a new initiative under the Department of Housing and Urban Development called the LGBTQI+ Youth Homelessness Initiative.
The statement also said it will require state child welfare agencies to provide LGBTQ youth in foster care to be around resources that “affirm them.”
“These are our kids. These are our neighbors. It’s cruel. It’s callous. Not somebody else’s kids. They’re all our kids,” Biden continued.
The upsurge of anti-LGBTQ bills has been likened to the Jim Crow era and referred to as a loss of decades of progress in civil rights protection for the LGBTQ community. As a direct result of the upsurge, the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that aims to end anti-LGBTQ legislation, declared a “state of emergency” for the LGBTQ community on Tuesday mentioning “an unprecedented climate of fear, hostility, and discrimination.”
HRC’s statement acknowledged that LGBTQ youth had been hit hard by the legislation.
Roughly a third of LGBTQ youth attribute mental health issues to the uptick in transphobic and homophobic legislation, The Guardian reported citing a survey by the Trevor Project.
At Thursday’s press conference, Biden had a message for LGBTQ youth: “You’re loved, you’re heard and this administration has your back. I mean it.”
“We are not relenting one single second to make sure that they’re protected,” he added.