The White House on Thursday announced steps to protect the LGBT community ahead of a Pride Month celebration, including the appointment of a Department of Education coordinator to address “the growing threat that book bans pose for the civil rights of students.”
President Biden, who has made the promotion of gay rights a cornerstone of his term, plans to host a large Pride celebration with singer-songwriter Betty Who on the South Lawn of the White House.
The White House took aim at a dozen states that have passed what it called “anti-LGBTQI+ laws that violate our most basic values and freedoms as Americans, and are cruel and callous to our kids, our neighbors, and those in our community.”
Free speech organization PEN America says some of the new laws — particularly in Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina — have resulted in a rise in restrictions on certain books in libraries or schools.
Conservative leaders and parent groups have pointed to content that is pornographic or inappropriate for younger ages in pushing to restrict some content. They say it would be unconscionable to give young people access to the materials and is part of a broader effort to strengthen parents’ rights in schools.
The administration and others have said the bans are chaotic and can go too far, even pulling in classics such as Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”
“Book banning erodes our democracy, removes vital resources for student learning, and can contribute to the stigma and isolation that LGBTQI+ people and other communities face,” the White House fact sheet says.
The White House said the new coordinator at the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will offer training in U.S. schools on how book bans might target specific communities and “create a hostile school environment” that may violate federal civil rights laws.
Also Thursday, the White House said it will form an LGBTQI+ Community Safety Partnership, with the assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division serving as the Justice Department’s liaison to this community.
Mr. Biden pledged to strengthen mental health resources with a new federal initiative that targets youth homelessness, advances regulations to protect youth in foster and uses federal funding to “support programs that help parents affirm their LGBTQI+ kids.”
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