WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is issuing executive orders Wednesday to stymie what the White House says are discriminatory legislative attacks on the LGBTQ community by Republican-controlled states.
The orders seek to discourage “conversion therapy” — a discredited practice that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — while also promoting gender-affirming surgery and expanding foster care protections for gay and transgender parents and children.
The White House says the actions, which tap money already allocated to federal agencies, are meant to counter 300-plus anti-LGBTQ laws introduced by state lawmakers over the past year alone.
The Department of Health and Human Services will draft new policies to expand care to LGBTQ families and the Education Department will devise rules to better protect LGBTQ students in public schools.
The orders will bolster programs that address the issue of suicide among LGBTQ children and will make adoptions easier for LGBTQ parents and children, White House officials said.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were to host a reception later Wednesday featuring LGBTQ activists, members of Congress and top administration officials, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who adopted twins with his husband, Chasten. The gathering is part of the Biden administration’s recognition of Pride Month.
Among the state laws the White House has opposed is Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” measure, which was signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in March. It bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Critics and activists say it marginalizes LGBTQ people.
A federal working group will promote educational policies for states and school districts that encourage inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ children. The orders call for new rules to discourage conversion therapy, though efforts to enforce bans in places where state law allows the practice will rely on legal challenges from outside the White House.
While some Republican-led legislatures have championed conversation therapy, other states and communities have banned the practice. The American Psychological Association says conversation therapy is not based on science and is harmful to a participant’s mental health.
In states that have banned gender affirming care, the Biden administration has invited people who say they are adversely affected to file complaints with federal civil rights authorities.
In earlier orders, Biden has sought to spell out that gay and transgender people are protecting from discrimination in schools, health care and at work. He directed federal agencies to update and expand regulations prohibiting sexual discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and reversed a ban on transgender people serving in the military.
Biden also wants Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would amend existing civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identification as protected characteristics. The measure has been stalled on Capitol Hill.