Biden condemns ‘hysterical’ threats to LGBT+ Americans as White House pushes back on book bans

President Joe Biden has condemned the “hysterical” threats against LGBT+ communities across the US, following a historic surge in state-level legislation targeting LGBT+ people, particularly trans youth, and a rise in homophobic and transphobic rhetoric and abuse.

His remarks alongside UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on 8 June followed the announcement of a White House strategy to protect LGBT+ rights and safety, including the launch of a LGBTQI+ Community Safety Partnership with federal law enforcement agencies, and federal support for affirming mental healthcare and LGBT+ youth in foster care and LGBT+ youth experiencing homelessness.

The Biden administration also is directing the US Department of Education to address the spike in book bans and challenges to library materials that are disproportionately by and about LGBT+ people.

“Our fight is far from over, because we have some hysterical and I would argue prejudiced people who are engaged in all of what you see going on around the country,” the president said in remarks from the White House.

“It’s an appeal to fear and it’s an appeal that is totally, thoroughly unjustified and ugly,” he said.

The president also urged Congress to pass the Equality Act, which has languished in the US Senate after its passage, twice, in the US House of Representatives. “I’m not giving up on this,” Mr Biden added.

That landmark legislation would extend discrimination protections to LGBT+ people in federal civil rights law by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity across federally protected public accommodations and facilities, including employment, education and housing.

“It’s wrong that a person can be married in the morning in the United States and be fired in the afternoon by their employer because they’re gay,” Mr Biden said.

“It’s wrong that the violence and hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people is rising. It’s wrong that extreme officials are pushing hateful bills, targeting transgender children, terrifying families, and criminalising doctors,” he added. “These are our kids. These are our neighbours. It’s cruel. It’s callous.”

The president was set to announce the White House plan for federal LGBT+ protections at a Pride event on Thursday afternoon, but it was postponed due to air pollution from Canadian wildfires blanketing the East Coast.

Over the last several years, Republican state lawmakers have introduced hundreds of state-level bills impacting LGBT+ people, including 220 bills specifically targeting trans and nonbinary Americans and their healthcare, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s analysis. More than 75 such bills have been signed into law.

At least 19 states have enacted laws or policies banning affirming healthcare for young trans people against the guidance of health providers and major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

LGBT+ communities also have reported increased threats of violence, discrimination and harassment, parallel to volatile rhetoric that has consumed right-wing media, social media platforms and debate among Republican elected officials, including in the halls of Congress, where House Republicans have advanced legislation mirroring the anti-LGBT+ bills dominating state capitols.

“You’re loved, you’re heard, and this administration has your back,” Mr Biden said in his remarks, addressing LGBT+ communities. “We are not relenting one single second to make sure you’re protected.”