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Biden to host thousands at White House Pride party

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By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will host the largest White House Pride Month celebration in history on Thursday, in a deliberate contrast to a cascade of Republican legislation and other attacks targeting LGBTQ+ people.

Biden, a Democrat, will host thousands of people on the White House’s South Lawn for an evening celebration of LGBTQ+ families that will feature singer Betty Who and Baltimore DJ Queen HD.

Biden will also announce new measures to help schools and LGBTQ kids navigate book bans, community centers fight threats and transgender youth access better care, domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden said.

“This year we’re seeing a disturbing surge in violent threats against LGBTQ community organizations,” Tanden told reporters on a conference call. “In too many parts of our country, LGBTQ Americans are being targeted for who they are, and that, simply put, is discrimination.”

Republican-led states have signed a flurry of bills targeting transgender youth; some states have banned teachers of younger children from discussing gender or sexuality and conservative lawmakers have proposed laws restricting drag performances.

In April, the White House warned bills targeting LGBTQ kids and gender-affirming care for youth set a dangerous precedent.

Biden’s own views on gay rights have evolved over his decades in public life. A watershed moment was his endorsement of the same-sex marriage in 2012 as vice president, a move that pushed former President Barack Obama to express his support for gay marriage a few days later.

As President he overturned a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, issued a new order to stop conversion therapy and signed the Respect for Marriage Act, which federally recognizes same-sex marriages, into law.

American support for same-sex marriage has doubled since the late 1990s to more than 70%, Gallup polls show, and the percentage of people who identify as LGBTQ has doubled in the past decade to over 7%.

The White House will announce on Thursday a new coordinator in the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights to train schools on how to navigate book bans, the impact they have on LGBTQ kids and how they violate civil rights laws, Tanden said.

The Department of Homeland Security will announce new training for community groups against active shooters and bomb threats; the Department of Justice will expand work with state and local law enforcement to protect the community and the Department of Health & Human Services will put a new advisory for mental health care providers supporting transgender kids.

On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in the United States, declared its first national state of emergency, citing the proliferation of anti-LGBTQ legislation in statehouses across the country.

More than 70 bills HRC considers anti-LGBTQ were passed in statehouses this legislative session, double last year’s previous record and over 500 introduced.

Florida has led restrictions of the LGBTQ community under governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, who recently entered the battle for the 2024 presidential election, challenging Biden.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington, Additional reporting by Jeff Mason. Editing by Trevor Hunnicutt, Heather Timmons and Gerry Doyle)

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