White House announces new actions to protect transgender Americans amid wave of state-level discriminatory laws

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President Biden said Thursday that his administration is working to protect Americans from the wave of anti-trans laws being passed at the state level.

“To everyone celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility, I want you to know your president sees you,” Biden said in a video statement. “Our entire administration sees you for who you are, made in the image of God and deserving in dignity, respect and support. But we know it’s hard when there are those out there who don’t see you and don’t respect you.”

Biden then referenced the surge in state-level laws targeting transgender Americans. In Texas, the state government is investigating parents of trans youths for child abuse. In Idaho, a bill would have made it a felony punishable by life in prison for parents to seek gender-affirming care for their children and for medical professionals to provide it. While the bill passed in the state House, virtually along party lines, it ended up being shelved in the Senate.

President Biden gestures as he speaks at a lectern.
President Biden speaking on Wednesday. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“To parents of transgender children, affirming your child’s identity is one of the most powerful things you can do to keep them safe and healthy,” Biden said. “To any transgender American who’s struggling, please know you’re not alone. To parents and children alike, please ask for help and know this: You’re so brave, you belong, and we have your back.”

As part of its rollout of actions on Thursday, the White House said it would work to streamline processes for transgender and nonbinary Americans in areas like education, travel and employment as well as providing additional resources to LGBT youths. The White House added that the Department of Health and Human Services would be the first federal agency to fly a trans pride flag.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said his Justice Department is "committed to combatting the hate crimes that target and terrorize the transgender community — particularly transgender women of color."

"Transgender individuals deserve to be able to live free from discrimination, harassment, violence and threats of violence," Garland said in a statement. "Transgender youth deserve to be loved and protected. And members of the transgender community deserve to be treated with dignity and respect."

On Wednesday, Republican governors in both Oklahoma and Arizona signed laws banning transgender youth from participating in sports. Last week, Republican governors in Indiana and Utah vetoed similar bills.

“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement explaining his veto. “I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland gestures while he speaks at a meeting.
Attorney General Merrick Garland at a Justice Department meeting on March 10. (Kevin Lamarque/AFP via Getty Images)

The Republican-controlled Legislature in Utah then overrode the veto and put the ban into effect. GOP lawmakers in Indiana have said they plan to do the same. According to tracking from the Human Rights Campaign, more than 300 anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in 35 states this year. This follows 2021, when the HRC tracked 147 anti-trans bills in 34 states.

Previously, Biden honored the transgender Americans who were killed last year and addressed the community in his State of the Union speech earlier this month, saying, “The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is wrong.” Shortly after taking office, his administration reversed one Trump-era decision in order to protect LGBT Americans from discrimination in health care and another so that transgender access to taxpayer-funded homeless shelters is protected. However, movement on enacting legislative protections via Congress has fallen short.

Last March, the House passed the Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Those protections would extend to housing, employment and access to federal programs and were a campaign promise by Biden, who had said he’d sign the bill into law in his first 100 days.

The legislation has since stalled in the Senate due to opposition from Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. In his Thursday statement, Biden said it is time to pass the Equality Act, to “help transgender persons around the world to live free from discrimination and violence.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who is the mother of a transgender child, wrote in Teen Vogue, “It’s past time for the Senate to finish the job and get the Equality Act to the president’s desk.”

At a rally in New York City, people hold signs reading: Protect Trans Students.
A rally in support of transgender people at New York's City Hall in 2018. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“At the end of the day, what transgender children need is the same thing that every child needs: the unequivocal love, support, and protection of their parents; the same chance to thrive as any of their peers; and the ability to be fully who they are, without fear of discrimination, violence or hatred,” Jayapal concluded. “The suffering of transgender children is not inevitable. It is our job — as leaders, as parents, as legislators — to push back on the attacks and to move us forward again toward true equality and justice.”