Biden orders federal agencies to protect LGBTQ rights under attack in GOP-led states

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Jacob Fischler

Arizona Mirror

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order aimed at reducing conversion therapy, expanding access to health care and promoting safe learning for LGBTQI+ people.

The order seeks to counter laws in Republican-led states that restrict the rights of LGBTQI+ children and their families. A senior administration official referred to Texas and Florida as two states where young LGGTQI+ people “have their rights under attack.”

According to a White House fact sheet, Wednesday’s order — issued during Pride Month — directs the Department of Health and Human Services to specify that federally funded health care providers not cannot offer conversion therapy, a discredited program that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation.

Biden is also encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to consider designating conversion therapy as a deceptive marketing practice. He will lead the departments of State, Treasury and HHS to develop an action plan to help nations ban the practice worldwide.

The order will also direct HHS to address barriers to mental health care, reproductive care, and HIV prevention and treatment for LGBTQI+ people and direct the department to work with states to promote access to gender-affirming care.

Biden will also ask HHS to expand youth access to suicide prevention resources.

The order will direct the U.S. Department of Education to create an LGBTQI+ Student and Family Task Force to advance state and school district policies “to promote safe and inclusive learning environments,” according to the information sheet.

State laws that “bully children”

On a call with reporters, a senior administration official said more than 300 state laws targeting LGBTQI+ people and their families are “intimidating children.”

“Hateful and discriminatory laws that target children do not fit the situation of the American people,” the official said. “President Biden will use his executive authority to protect children and families.”

Florida law prohibits K-3 teachers from discussing sexuality and gender. Critics say it further marginalizes an already vulnerable group.

Texas law makes it mandatory to sue families of transgender children who seek gender-affirming care, which is recommended by leading medical groups for treating gender dysphoria.

Other state bills being debated ban health care for transgender youth, ban transgender students from playing school sports or using bathrooms that match their gender, and make it harder for transgender people to obtain official identity documents, according to a tracker from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The order will use existing funds from HHS, the Department of Education and other federal agencies tasked with executing it.

Biden signed the order during a White House event on Wednesday with members of Congress, officials and state and local LGBTQI+ advocates.

Vice President Kamala Harris, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg – the first openly gay Cabinet Secretary – joined him there, according to the White House.

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