WASHINGTON — President Biden acknowledged transgender Americans during his Wednesday address to a joint session of Congress, particularly trans children, at a time when Republican lawmakers in states across the country have been pushing legislation to restrict their rights.
“To all the transgender Americans watching at home, especially the young people who are so brave, I want you to know that your president has your back,” Biden said, urging Congress to pass the Equality Act, which offers expanded protections to LGBTQ Americans from workplace, housing and health care discrimination.
The Equality Act passed the Democratic-held House of Representatives in February and now faces an uphill battle in a closely divided Senate. Only three members of the House GOP voted in favor of the law, and Senate Republicans are expected to oppose the measure with similar gusto.
This year, five U.S. states with Republican-majority legislatures or GOP governors have passed laws that deny medical treatment to trans youth or restrict transgender athletes from competing.
Biden made history this year by nominating Rachel Levine as his assistant secretary of health, the first transgender federal official to be confirmed by Congress. Biden has also agreed to write the foreword to a forthcoming book by transgender activist Sarah McBride. In a draft leaked to the media, he wrote that transgender rights are the "civil rights issue of our time," NBC News reported.
In 2015, then-President Barack Obama became the first president to mention transgender people during his State of the Union address.
“That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” Obama said. “We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.”
As vice president, Biden announced his support of same-sex marriage before Obama.
“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that.”
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