During remarks at the White House this week, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg — who is himself the first openly gay Cabinet member — went after Republican politicians for their targeting of transgender children and young people across the country. In a slew of states, Republican officials have proposed, and in some cases enacted, bills that would block transgender youth from participating in school sports in line with their gender identity. States including Montana and Tennessee have enacted legislation that restricts the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity-related materials, completely blocking entire groups of people from unhindered representation in school instruction. The list goes well on from there.
The Human Rights Campaign shared the dismal news in early May that 2021 had become the worst year in recent history in terms of the number of anti-LGBTQ bills getting signed into law by state authorities. Since that point, Republicans’ moves targeting LGBTQ people have continued. On June 1, for instance — the first day of Pride Month — Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law blocking transgender youth from school sports corresponding to their identity.
Buttigieg pointedly commented as follows:
‘There’s an especially dangerous political strategy arising in some states right now, as some politicians try to gain an advantage by picking on transgender kids, some of the most vulnerable people in this country. There are consequences when politicians and other leaders respond to transgender people’s search for equality and belonging by basically denying that someone can be transgender at all. Telling America that transgender people do not exist amounts to telling very real transgender people that they should not exist.’
Check out his comments below:
— The Hill (@thehill) June 26, 2021
The Biden administration has sought to consistently reiterate its support for LGBTQ Americans. For example, the Education Department has released formal guidelines asserting that federal protections against sex-based discrimination during school interactions also cover discrimination on account of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Trump administration had taken the opposite position, asserting that federal protections were more limited in scope. Now, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has explained that he “directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has now also insisted that protections provided by the Fair Housing Act “cover LGBTQ Americans, allowing the federal government to investigate complaints of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” as CNN explains. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that federal protections against discrimination in workplaces also protected LGBTQ individuals from discrimination connected to their sexual orientation or gender identity in the same environments, and this ruling has provided some foundational support for some of the Biden administration’s moves.
In terms of a more internationally inclined scope, Biden has also selected Jessica Stern, who leads an advocacy group called OutRight Action International, to serve as the next U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons. Stern is set to serve under the auspices of the State Department in a diplomatic role, advocating on behalf of LGBTQ people in global contexts. The Trump administration left the position vacant for its entire run.