(WB) President Biden commemorated Pride Month for first his year in office on Friday with a reception at the White House, detailing the initiatives his administration has made on behalf of the LGBT community and declaring “Pride is Back at the White House.”
“We’re also making progress, but I know we still have a long way to go, a lot of work to do,” Biden said. “We must protect the gains we’ve made and fend off the cruel and unconscionable attacks that we’re seeing now to ensure the full promise of dignity and equal protection.”
Joining Biden on stage for the reception in the East Room was first lady Jill Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who could claim the historic status of participating in the event as the first openly gay official to obtain Senate confirmation for a Cabinet-level role.
Buttigieg, paying heed to his spouse, Chasten Buttigieg, who was seated in the audience, said being able to serve in the Biden administration as a gay man was important.
“Not that long ago, well within the lifetimes of many people in this room, being outed could be disqualifying from public service, any public service — not just being a Cabinet officer, or a member of the military, but being a bookkeeper or an astronomer,” Buttigieg said, making a reference to Frank Kameny’s termination from the U.S. government in the 1950s.
A heavy focus of the event was the wave of state laws against transgender youth, including restricting their access to transition-related health care and schools' sports. Biden called them “nothing but bullying disguised as legislation.”
“These are some of the ugliest, un-American bills I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been around a while,” Biden said.
Listing the initiatives his administration has undertaken for the LGBT community, Biden recalled he signed an executive order on his first day in office against anti-LGBT discrimination that has led to non-discrimination measures stemming from various federal agencies.
Two other news items on the same day: Biden signing a congressional resolution designating the Pulse Nightclub as a national memorial and the appointment of Jessica Stern as international envoy for LGBT human rights, also were part of Biden’s remarks.
Biden also renewed his call to pass the Equality Act, legislation he said in the 2020 election would be a priority, but has languished in Congress and is all but dead.
Introducing Biden at the event was Ashton Mota, a 16-year-old transgender advocate from Lowell, Mass., and a leader with the GenderCool Project.
Mota, delivering a personal speech about his transition and his advocacy for transgender youths, thanked President Biden for the actions taken by his administration.
“Mr. President, thank you for having our back,” Mota said.
Notables in attendance, and pointed out by Biden, were Assistant Secretary for Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender presidential appointee to obtain U.S. Senate confirmation; Delaware State Sen. Sarah McBride, the first openly transgender state senator; Virginia State Del. Danica Roem, the first openly transgender elected and seated to a state legislature.
Biden, who signed an executive order reversing President Trump’s transgender military ban, also pointed out in the audience Lt. Col. Bree Fram, a high-ranking openly trans service member.
Members of the Congress who are LGBT were also in attendance for the event, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas). A notable absence, however, was Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the only out bisexual in Congress.
Ruben Gonzales, executive director of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, was also in attendance at the event and pointed out it included many LGBT appointees his organization has supported.
“It’s something to celebrate,” Gonzales said. “It’s great to see a collection of so many appointees, LGBT leaders in a space together to be welcomed and affirmed by this administration. I think it’s a testament to what Biden is creating.”