WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden, in his first State of the Union address tonight before a joint session of Congress, renewed his calls on Congress to pass the Equality Act — making clear that passage of the landmark civil rights legislation remains one of his administration’s highest priorities — and also condemned the “onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans,” pledging his support for trans youth being targeted by lawmakers in statehouses across the country.
In response to the president’s remarks, Joni Madison, Interim President of the Human Rights Campaign, released the following statement:
Background: The Equality Act & Increased Attacks on Trans Youth Across the Country
HRC last week launched the Reality Flag campaign, a nationwide public awareness campaign to highlight the many basic freedoms missing for LGBTQ+ people in states across the country, and to galvanize public support for the Equality Act. The core of the campaign is the Reality Flag — an altered version of the American flag with 29 of its stars removed, representing each of the 29 states lacking comprehensive protections for LGBTQ+ people.
The launch of the Reality Flag campaign comes as anti-equality efforts are sweeping state legislatures across the nation. Statewide officials in Texas have tried to criminalize transition care for minors, and lawmakers in Alabama are on the verge of passing legislation to do so as well. In Florida, the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill stands to block teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues or people, further stigmatizing LGBTQ+ people and isolating LGBTQ+ kids if it becomes law. In South Dakota, Gov. Noem proclaimed that it “makes me sad” to hear about high rates of depression among LGBTQ+ people in her state – just days after she signed the first anti-trans bill of 2022 into law. And in Iowa, right-wing politicians have answered Gov. Kim Reynolds’s call to ban transgender girls from playing youth sports consistent with their gender identity — not only is a bill quickly advancing through the legislature, but Republican State Rep. Jeff Shipley claimed nearly a dozen times that transgender Iowans were mentally ill, comparing them to cancer patients, and likening being transgender to substance abuse disorders.
During tonight’s address, President Biden also addressed other civil rights priorities of the Human Rights Campaign, including:
Mental health strategy: “Let’s get all Americans the mental health services they need. More people they can turn to for help, and full parity between physical and mental health care.” – President Biden
A recent study showed that two-thirds of LGBTQ+ people experienced feelings of depression “to some degree,” and about 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people said they experienced feelings of depression on a near-daily basis. According to an HRC Foundation report, 35% of LGBTQ+ youth, 45% of transgender youth and 40% of questioning youth have seriously considered attempting suicide, compared to 13% of non-LGBTQ+ youth.
Federal voting reforms: “Tonight. I call on the Senate to: Pass the Freedom to Vote Act. Pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. And while you’re at it, pass the Disclose Act so Americans can know who is funding our elections.” – President Biden
Fear of or experiencing discrimination led 22% of LGBTQ+ adults, 35% of LGBTQ+ adults of Color, 49% of transgender adults, and 55% of transgender adults of Color to avoid voting in at least one election in their lives. An issue with meeting voter identification requirements prevented 24% of LGBTQ+ adults, 35% of LGBTQ+ people of Color, 42% of transgender people from voting in at least one election in their lives. Furthermore, 46% of transgender people of Color said they did not vote in one or more elections in their lives specifically because their I.D. had an incorrect gender marker, name, or photo.
The Violence Against Women Act: “Soon, we’ll strengthen the Violence Against Women Act that I first wrote three decades ago.” – President Biden
This legislation is especially important given the terrible onslaught of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people. The record death toll seen in 2021, which primarily has affected Black trans women, points especially to the need for reauthorization of VAWA.
Additional Background on Biden/Harris LGBTQ+ Accomplishments: The pro-LGBTQ+ accomplishments of the Biden-Harris administration during their time in office reflect a record of removing discriminatory policies of the prior administration while making landmark appointments of LGBTQ+ individuals to a variety of key posts. HRC also released the Blueprint for Positive Change after the November 2020 election, detailing more than 80 policy changes that the administration can make that would serve to bolster LGBTQ+ equality in the country.
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