By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden hosted the largest Pride celebration in White House history on Saturday, calling for new measures to protect the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people amid a series of “terrifying” attacks and legislation.
Biden, a Democrat, has urged Congress to pass the “Equality Act” which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity for protections alongside the race, religion, gender and national origin, and banning assault weapons.
Thousands of guests picnicked on the South Lawn, including Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly LGBTQ person to hold a Cabinet post, and Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services Admiral Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate.
Biden said guests also included survivors of deadly shootings at the LGTBQ Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs last November and Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016.
Attacks and a slew of bills in Republican-led states targeting transgender youth, banning teachers of young children from discussing gender or sexuality, and proposing or passing laws restricting drag performances have created a threatening environment. for LGTBQ people, Biden said.
“When families across the country are faced with excruciating decisions to move to another state to protect their child from dangerous anti-LGTBQ laws, we must act. We must push back against the hundreds of callous and cynical bills introduced into the States targeting transgender children, terrifying families and criminalizing doctors and nurses,” he said.
“These bills and laws attack the most basic values and freedoms we have as Americans,” he said, drawing cheers and applause from the crowd, where many wore rainbow colors. -rainbows, shorts and sundresses, and some were dressed in drag.
Many chanted “four more years” as he neared the end of his remarks.
First Lady Jill Biden said the celebration was about “finding joy” and “celebrating the beauty and resilience” of the LGBTQ community in the face of growing threats to their lives and rights.
“Today we say loud and clear – that you belong, that you are beautiful, that you are loved,” she said. “Let it remind you that you don’t have to face these battles alone. You are never alone.”
The celebration was delayed from Thursday due to smoke from wildfires in Canada.
Biden this week announced new measures to curb book bans and hate crimes, help transgender youth access better care, and strengthen federal coordination to “better protect Pride celebrations, marches, community centers, health care providers and small businesses”.
Florida has been at the forefront of restrictions targeting the LGBTQ community under Gov. Ron DeSantis, who says the measures protect children, and recently entered the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination to challenge Biden.
As president, Biden reversed a ban on transgender people serving in the military, issued a new order to stop conversion therapy, and signed the Respecting Marriage Act, which federally recognizes transgender people. gay marriages.
American support for same-sex marriage has doubled since the late 1990s to more than 70%, according to Gallup polls, and the percentage of people who identify as LGBTQ has doubled over the past decade to more than 7 %.
More than 70 bills deemed anti-LGBTQ by the Human Rights Campaign have passed parliaments this legislative session, double last year’s record, and more than 500 have been introduced.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; additional reporting by Jeff Mason, editing by Deepa Babington)