LGBTQ Agenda: White House announces new LGBTQ civil rights measures

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Friday June 9, 2023
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President Joe Biden's administration announced several policies aimed at protecting the rights of LGBTQ Americans. Photo: Reuters
President Joe Biden's administration announced several policies aimed at protecting the rights of LGBTQ Americans. Photo: Reuters

The Biden administration will be appointing a coordinator to work on the issues and threats that book bans pose for civil rights, according to a June 8 statement from the White House.

"The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is announcing that to support its ongoing work to defend the rights of LGBTQI+ students and other underserved communities, it will appoint a new coordinator to address the growing threat that book bans pose for the civil rights of students," the news release stated. "That coordinator will work to provide new trainings for schools nationwide on how book bans that target specific communities and create a hostile school environment may violate federal civil rights laws."

The administration's announcement comes days after the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ rights organization, declared LGBTQ people are in a national state of emergency.

The White House news came as part of a larger package of measures to protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans, announced a week into Pride Month. The White House noted that last year saw the highest number of demands to censor library books and materials since the American Library Association started keeping track of efforts to ban books two decades ago.

"A record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, a 38% increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted for censorship in 2021," the association stated in a news release of its own. "Of those titles, the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color."

Challenges to books covering LGBTQ people or related topics have been seen in every part of the country, even the Golden State. As the Bay Area Reporter reported online June 8, Temecula Valley School Board President Joseph Komrosky called slain gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, who was the first out person elected to public office in California back in 1977, a "pedophile," just as the board decided to exclude a social studies book, "TCI Social Studies Alive," that mentions Milk in supplemental materials. The board voted 3-2 against the book.

The school board's decision is being investigated by the California Department of Education, it confirmed to the B.A.R. the same day as the White House news release.

California's Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful, or FAIR, Act, signed into law by former governor Jerry Brown in 2011, states that a "teacher shall not give instruction and a school district shall not sponsor any activity that promotes a discriminatory bias on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation." It was the first such law of its kind in the nation.

Other federal actions

The White House also announced it is launching a new LGBTQI+ Community Safety Partnership, and that the assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division will serve as the department's liaison to the LGBTQI+ community on issues related to protecting the rights of the community.

That news comes after the United States Department of Homeland Security issued updated guidance last month warning LGBTQ Americans of potential violence against them.

"Lone offenders and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and personal grievances continue to pose a persistent and lethal threat to the Homeland," DHS stated. "Likely targets of potential violence include U.S. critical infrastructure, faith-based institutions, individuals or events associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, schools, racial and ethnic minorities, and government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement."

DHS stated it shares information with the FBI and "our partners across every level of government and in the private sector," it stated. People are advised to be prepared for emergency situations, and alert local authorities to suspicious behavior.

"DHS, through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, will provide trainings to LGBTQI+ community organizations — including community centers, small businesses, and Pride festivals — to help them prevent and respond to threats," the White House stated. "DHS will host bi-monthly threat briefings (or as required based on changes in the threat levels) for LGBTQI+ organizations to provide updates on the threat landscape and review key indicators of violence, and offer resources for local leaders. DHS will also lead a series of workshops for LGBTQI+ community organizations to raise awareness of federal funding for both physical security and threat prevention grant opportunities."

As the B.A.R. has reported, San Francisco and New York City Pride events have recently announced their safety procedures and protocols.

Also, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced it will issue a behavioral health care advisory on trans and gender-diverse youth "to provide evidence-based practices for mental health providers."

"HHS will also issue a guidance to states and communities on using federal funding to support mental health services for LGBTQI+ youth, including funding from the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and provide technical assistance to communities to increase LGBTQI+ youth mental health services," the White House stated. "HHS's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has also just released an LGBTQI+ Family Support Grant to provide $1.7 million in federal funding for programs that prevent health and behavioral health risks for LGBTQI+ youth (including suicide and homelessness) by helping families to affirm and support their LGBTQI+ child."

The Safer Communities Act was introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and signed by President Joe Biden last year; it was the first federal gun safety legislation in three decades.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

The column is taking a short break and will return July 11.

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