President Joe Biden signs an executive order during a Pride Month event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo by Ting Shen/UPI | License Photo
June 15 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at increasing protections for LGBTQ Americans in observance of Pride Month on Wednesday.
The Executive Order on Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Individuals includes a provision to protect children from conversion therapy, safeguards for programs to prevent youth suicide and an initiative to protect foster youth.
"My message to all the young people: Just be you. You are loved, you are heard, you are understood, you do belong," Biden said. "I want you to know that as your president, all of us on this stage have your back. We have your back. We see who you are, made in the image of God and deserving of dignity, respect and support."
The president also invited Javier Gomez, a Florida student who organized a walkout at his high school against the state's so-called Don't Say Gay bill, which restricts what can be taught in classrooms on gender identity or sexual orientation.
Gomez, a gay man, said that his openly gay fifth-grade teacher helped provide him the support that he needed to understand his identity as he struggled to come out.
"I fear other students in Florida and across the country will not be able to get the same support because of hateful legislation like the Don't Say Gay bill," said Gomez. "But my presence here is a testament that we are fighting back."
First lady Jill Biden remarked on how the Florida law and a directive from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordering state agencies to investigate gender-affirming care for transgender children as "child abuse" have set back progress for LGBTQ Americans.
"It shouldn't take courage to be yourself. It shouldn't take courage to go to school and walk down the halls as the person you know you are. It shouldn't take courage to hold the hand of the person you love on a bus, to kiss them goodbye on the sidewalk, to share one of the most fundamental and beautiful connections that any one of us can have in this life. It shouldn't but too often and in too many places it still does," she said.
The president condemned the laws, as well as "violent attacks on the community, including ongoing attacks on transgender women of color," including the recent arrests of 31 men who planned to attack a Pride event in Iowa as "disgusting."
"No one knows better than the people in this room, we have a lot more work to do. I don't have to tell you about the ultra-MAGA agenda, attacking families and our freedoms," he said. "All of you in this room know better than anyone, that these attacks are real and consequential for real families."
Biden further called on Congress to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and other services.
The bill passed in the House as recently as last year, but it has not made its way through the Senate.
The monthly designation of LGBTQ Pride Month is meant to reflect on the progress made for justice, inclusion and equality for the community, White House officials said.
"I often say that America can be defined by one word: possibilities. This month, we celebrate generations of LGBTQI+ people who have fought to make the possibilities of our nation real for every American," Biden said on May 31 in issuing a proclamation for the month.
On Wednesday, Biden specifically highlighted Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the first openly gay people to hold their respective positions.
"As I promised when I got elected, I wanted my administration to look like America ... and we've done that, record number of out and proud appointees at every single level of our government," he said.