White House to name coordinator to push back against book bans, among new LGBTQ protections

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By Ariana Figueroa

As part of the celebration of Pride month, the Biden administration on Thursday announced several new protections for LGBTQ+ youth and families, including the position of a federal coordinator to counter the massive wave of book bans across the country.

President Joe Biden was scheduled later Thursday to host a Pride event at the White House, where LGBTQ+ families will share their stories and singer Betty Who is taped to perform.

The celebration comes as more than 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures and 83 passed this year across the U.S. On Wednesday, for example, Missouri Gov. Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation that bans minors from beginning gender-affirming care and limits sports participation for transgender athletes.

During a call with reporters on Wednesday night, senior administration officials said a new coordinator on book bans has not yet been named, but that individual will be part of the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.

The coordinator will be tasked with training school districts and advising them that “book bans that target a specific community and create a hostile school environment may violate federal civil rights laws.”

In the last few years, there has been an unprecedented wave of bans spurred by parents and conservative groups to target books that center the LGBTQ+ community, Black history and diverse stories.

Senior administration officials said that the Department of Heath and Human Services will also issue “evidence-based” guidance to mental health providers who work with transgender youth, a move that comes as multiple states are banning health care access to transgender children and adults. The officials did not disclose details of the guidance.

There will also be a joint effort between the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department to provide LGBTQ+ centers with dedicated safety training and threat briefings as they deal with potential violence, such as mass shootings and bomb threats, as well as cyberattacks.

Violence targeting the LGBTQ+ community includes the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were murdered, and the Colorado Springs, Colorado, Club Q shooting, in which five people died.

DHS and DOJ will also work with health care providers to provide safety trainings to help doctors, clinics and children’s hospitals that are facing increasing threats, officials said.

A children’s hospital in Missouri that provides health care to transgender youth was subjected to right-wing attacks after a claim that was later found as “unsubstantiated” alleged the medical team failed to inform parents of potential side effects of treatment.

Many hospitals that care for transgender youth have been targets for bomb threats.

“This partnership will help state and local law enforcement to better serve LGBTQ Americans,” a senior administration official said.

Ariana Figueroa is a writer for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this article first appeared.