Biden to appoint coordinator to address book bans ahead of Pride Month event
By Donald Judd and Maegan Vazquez, CNN
(CNN) -- (CNN) — President Joe Biden will appoint a new federal coordinator to address the increase in book bans enacted across different states – part of a slew of new actions that he announced on Thursday aimed at protecting the LGBTQ+ community.
Biden announced the actions during a news conference with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. He was originally set to host what White House Domestic Policy Adviser Neera Tanden called “the largest Pride celebration in White House history.” The celebration on the South Lawn, which was set for Thursday but was postponed until Saturday due to air quality issues caused by wildfires in Canada, will demonstrate “that LGBTQ people belong in the People’s House,” she said.
“LGBTQ Americans, especially children: You’re loved, you’re heard and this administration has your back, I mean it,” Biden said. “We are not relenting one single second to make sure that they’re protected.”
The Pride Month event and new executive actions are the latest efforts by the administration’s to protect the LGBTQ+ community as largely conservative state leaders have led attempts to pass laws targeting their rights. The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking 491 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced across the US since the beginning of the 2023 legislative session.
As part of Thursday’s announcement, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will appoint a new coordinator specifically tasked with combating book bans enacted at the state and local level.
In March, the American Library Association released data documenting 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, marking the highest number of attempted book bans since the association began compiling the data more than 20 years ago. And an April report from free speech organization PEN America found book bans rose during the first half of the 2022-2023 school year. Almost a third of the bans were the result of newly enacted state laws, according to the report, which found bans were most prevalent in five states: Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina.
“Across the country, our nation is facing a spike in book bans, and these efforts disproportionately target the LGBTQI+ community as well as communities of color,” an administration official told reporters on a call previewing Thursday’s announcement. “These aren’t just attacks on the rights of LGBTQI+ Americans, they are part and parcel of a coordinated attack on our democracy.”
The administration is also expected to unveil a new Department of Homeland Security-led partnership with the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to provide “dedicated safety training and resources,” an expanded DOJ LGBTQ working group, new advisories from HHS to help mental health providers care for transgender and gender-diverse youth, and initiatives to protect LGBTQ youth in foster care and combat youth homelessness in the LGBTQ community.
The announcements are the latest in a series of outreach efforts from the Biden administration to members of the LGBTQ community, and come as the Human Rights Campaign – the United States’ largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization – declared a national state of emergency for members of the LGBTQ community.
In his first month in office, Biden signed an executive order repealing a ban on most transgender Americans joining the military, while in December, he signed into law the Respect for Marriage Act codifying federal protections for same-sex and interracial couples.
The signing was a bookend for a moment a decade ago that helped spark a national political transformation on the issue.
When he was serving as vice president, Biden shocked the country when he came out in public support of same-sex marriage for the first time. His comments prompted then-President Barack Obama to stake out the same position several days later.
In 2021, Biden became the first US president to ever issue a presidential proclamation to mark International Transgender Day of Visibility.
During last year’s Pride Month celebrations, the president issued an executive order which included actions to address legislative efforts in states across the country, protecting children from conversion therapy, safeguarding programs to prevent youth suicide and a new initiative to protect foster youth.
And in April, the administration proposed a new federal rule change that would allow for schools to enforce some restrictions on transgender student athletes, but opposes policies that “categorically” ban those students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender. The reaction from LGBTQ advocates was mixed, with some groups saying the proposed guidance doesn’t go far enough.
“We know that there’s more work to do, but these meaningful steps will help protect our communities, they will help protect Americans, and they demonstrate our commitment to standing proudly with the LGBT community in the enduring struggle for freedom, justice and equality,” Tanden said Wednesday.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
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