Joe Biden has signed an executive order aimed at curbing discrimination against transgender youth and drying up federal funding for the controversial practice of “conversion therapy”.
Biden’s executive order, which comes during Pride month, asks the federal health and education departments to expand access to gender-affirming medical care and find new ways to counter a flurry of bills passed in US states by conservative lawmakers this year that ban these treatments for transgender youth.
Wednesday’s order asks federal agencies to ensure that federally funded programs do not offer conversion therapy, which tries to force LGBTQ+ youth to change their sexual orientation, and the Federal Trade Commission to consider policing such practices that seek to change a patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity as deceptive businesses.
A study backed by the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ anti-suicide advocacy group, found that some $650m is spent on conversion therapy annually, including payments from insurance companies and Medicaid, the federally-funded healthcare program for lower-income people.
“We have a lot more work to do, a lot more work to do,” Biden said before signing the executive order at a Pride month reception at the White House.
Decrying what he called the “ultra-Maga” agenda, Biden said states have introduced hundreds of bills targeting LGBTQ+ people, that parents of transgender youth are being harassed in Texas and Mickey Mouse is targeted in Florida for Walt Disney’s defense of gay rights.
“These attacks are real and consequential for real families,” Biden said.
The measures also include encouraging the placement of LGBTQ+ children in foster homes that support their sexual orientation and creating a new working group on LGBTQ+ homelessness. They come after the Department of Justice has challenged some conservative state laws on trans kids as unconstitutional.
The White House said more than 300 “anti-LGBTQI+” laws were introduced in state legislatures over the past year, a reference to bills barring classroom discussion of gender identity, blocking access to healthcare to help young people transition, and restricting participation in sports.
“President Biden believes that no one should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love. Since President Biden took office, he has championed the rights of LGBTQI+ Americans and people around the world, accelerating the march towards full equality,” the White House said.
The White House’s steps fall short of an outright federal ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public spaces and federal programs. That would require Senate approval for the Equality Act.
Biden recently warned of “rising hate and violence” targeting LGBTQ+ people, and the executive order follows recent threats against pride events. Over the weekend, police in Idaho arrested 31 members of a white supremacist group who planned to riot at a pride event there. And in San Francisco, a group of men stormed into a library where a drag queen was hosting a children’s reading event, and allegedly shouted homophobic and anti-LGBTQ+ slurs last week. The incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime.