Biden calls for protections for transgender youth, LGBTQ Americans in State of the Union

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President Biden called for the protection of transgender youth and expansion of federal protections for LGBTQ Americans in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“Let’s also pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity,” Biden said.

The Equality Act would expand federal civil rights protections from discrimination in areas like housing and employment to LGBTQ Americans. The call from Biden comes after Republicans have introduced anti-LGBTQ bills in more than two dozen states, according to tracking from the ACLU. There has been a particular focus on trans youths, including limiting gender-affirming care — contrary to advice from medical experts — and banning them from sports.

Joe Biden
President Biden delivering the State of the Union address on Tuesday night. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Some of the bills have broached limiting care for trans adults, with proposals in Oklahoma and South Carolina making it illegal to provide hormonal or surgical care until age 26, the same age children are unable to use their parents’ health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

GOP legislators across the country have also attempted to restrict drag shows, which have been targeted in recent months, including the shooting that left five people dead at Club Q in Colorado Springs in November. There have also been attempts to purge books by queer authors from shelves and attacks on the Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for LGBTQ youths.

In a sign that the 2024 Republican primary is likely to only escalate attacks on transgender Americans, former President Donald Trump released a video last week in which he laid out a detailed anti-trans plan that included denying care to adults, saying, “I will sign a new executive order instructing every federal agency to cease all programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age.”

Rep. Deb Haaland with colleagues
Rep. Deb Haaland and Democratic colleagues hold a Transgender Pride flag at the Capitol, Feb. 25, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters/TPX Images of the Day)

Trump said that he would propose cutting Medicare and Medicaid funding to any hospital or health care provider that offered gender-affirming care to minors and that his administration would “inform states and school districts that if any teacher or school official suggests to a child that they could be trapped in the wrong body, they will be faced with severe consequences.”

“As part of our new credentialing body for teachers, we will promote positive education about the nuclear family, the roles of mothers and fathers and celebrating rather than erasing the things that make men and women different and unique,” Trump added. “I will ask Congress to pass a bill establishing the only genders recognized by the United States government are male and female, and they are assigned at birth.”

Biden addressed the issue at last year’s State of the Union, saying, “The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is wrong. To our younger transgender Americans, I will always have your back as your president, so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential.”

In May 2021, the Biden administration said it would protect gay and transgender people against sex discrimination in health care — a reversal of Trump-era policies that sought to limit transgender rights. In December, Biden signed a bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriages at the federal level, but said they still needed to pass the Equality Act.

“When a person can be married in the morning and thrown out of a restaurant for being gay in the afternoon, this is still wrong,” Biden said at a White House event. “When hospitals, libraries and community centers are threatened and intimidated because they support LGBTQ children and families, we have to speak out.”