Analysis: Easter Sunday Outrage

An American flag and a trans pride flag
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Easter, the holiest day on the Christian liturgical calendar, is a moveable feast, falling between late March and late April each year, depending on the lunar calendar. This year, it fell on March 31, the annual commemoration of International Transgender Day of Visibility — not a moveable feast. International Transgender Day of Visibility was established in 2009. The coincidence of the two events and President Biden’s statement of support for International Transgender Day of Visibility, caused a furore throughout the GOP and the country. The right-wing outrage-industrial complex was in a collective rage, adding one more grievance to their list against Biden.

Biden has issued a statement on International Transgender Day of Visibility since 2021, and this one was long and detailed, calling out actions by the GOP and other anti-LGBTQ+ haters without naming names. Biden began by saying, “On Transgender Day of Visibility, we honor the extraordinary courage and contributions of transgender Americans and reaffirm our Nation’s commitment to forming a more perfect Union — where all people are created equal and treated equally throughout their lives.”

He also noted, “Transgender Americans are part of the fabric of our Nation. Whether serving their communities or in the military, raising families or running businesses, they help America thrive. They deserve, and are entitled to, the same rights and freedoms as every other American, including the most fundamental freedom to be their true selves.”  

Biden’s statement went on to call out “extremists” and anti-trans laws and policies and to “call on the Congress to pass the Equality Act, to codify civil rights protections for all LGBTQI+ Americans.”

He closed with “Today, we send a message to all transgender Americans: You are loved. You are heard. You are understood. You belong. You are America, and my entire Administration and I have your back.”

The outrage over that acknowledgment spread fast and furious. Republican governors and members of Congress tweeted their anger, claiming Biden was replacing Easter with Transgender Day of Visibility. The prominent Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, wrote on Twitter/X that Biden and his administration have “little respect” for God and even invoked Sodom.

“This once again shows how little respect President Biden and his administration have for God,” Graham wrote, in part. “On the most significant day of the Christian calendar, when the Church around the world celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ who died and shed His blood for the sins of mankind, the Biden administration uses this opportunity to flaunt sin, to glorify sin and to celebrate sin.”

Former president Donald Trump attacked Biden for the statement. His campaign accused Biden of being “insensitive to religion.”

Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign’s press secretary, said, “We call on Joe Biden’s failing campaign and White House to issue an apology to the millions of Catholics and Christians across America who believe tomorrow is for one celebration only — the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Leavitt also said the Biden administration has engaged in a “years-long assault on the Christian faith.”

Trump — who began selling MAGA Bibles last week to help pay for money owed in judgements for fraud, sexual assault and defamation cases — spent Easter sending 77 posts on his Truth Social account, attacking Biden and others for his legal problems. At a campaign rally in Michigan on April 2, Trump declared Election Day on Nov. 5, “Christian Visibility Day.

Speaker Mike Johnson said on Twitter/X, “The Biden White House has betrayed the central tenet of Easter — which is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Banning sacred truth and tradition—while at the same time proclaiming Easter Sunday as ‘Transgender Day’—is outrageous and abhorrent. The American people are taking note.”

Johnson also claimed that Biden had banned religious symbols from the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. But in fact, that rule has been in place since 1978 and was observed throughout the Trump administration. Elizabeth Alexander, First Lady Jill Biden’s communications director, also said the claims were misleading, noting that past administrations, including Trump’s, used the same standardized nondiscrimination language.

Mississippi GOP governor Tate Reeves — whose state commemorates Robert E. Lee Day on Martin Luther King Jr. Day — called out the president on Twitter/X with a screenshot showing part of Biden’s statement. His post received more than 2 million views and typified the GOP responses.

Reeves wrote: “President Biden has declared that Easter Sunday is now Transgender Day. This is an intentional attempt to insult and mock Christians across America. Shocking – but not surprising. In Mississippi, we will proudly celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sinners.”

Reeves’s statement was untrue. Biden, a devout Catholic who attends Mass every week, did not do that. On Easter Sunday, Biden posted two separate tweets. In one he said, “Jill and I send our warmest wishes to Christians around the world celebrating the power of hope and the promise of Christ’s Resurrection this Easter Sunday.” That post included a graphic with another religious message inside. The post has more than 3 million views.

In the other, Biden wrote, “Happy Easter, America. May God bless and keep each and every one of you.” That message had a graphic reading “Happy Easter” with flowers. The post has more than 4 million views.

Caitlyn Jenner, former Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete, who transitioned in 2015, wrote on Twitter/X, “I am absolutely disgusted that Joe Biden has declared the most Holy of Holy days — a self proclaimed devout Catholic — as Transgender Day of Visibility. The only thing you should be declaring on this day is ‘HE is Risen’.”

Jenner’s tweet got more than 17 million views. Jenner parlayed that response into an appearance on Fox News to talk about the issue. She also said, “Biden’s transgender visibility statement is a ‘middle finger’ to all religions.”

Jenner was even applauded by X owner Elon Musk, known for his anti-trans messaging despite having a trans daughter, Vivian. Musk said, “Good for @Caitlyn_Jenner!”

Charles Moran, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, in an exclusive statement to Newsweek on Sunday, excoriated Biden. Moran suggested that Biden should have foregone posting the statement this year due to Easter.

Moran said in part, “This entire episode shows extreme disrespect to Christians, or extreme malpractice upon Biden’s advisors….LGBT voters should seriously look elsewhere for leadership than the failed Biden-Harris Administration.”

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said, “Sadly, it’s unsurprising politicians are seeking to divide and weaken our country with cruel, hateful and dishonest rhetoric.”

Bates said, “As a Christian who celebrates Easter with family, President Biden stands for bringing people together and upholding the dignity and freedoms of every American. President Biden will never abuse his faith for political purposes or for profit.”

Democratic senator Raphael Warnock, a Georgia Baptist pastor, said on CNN Sunday, “Jesus centered the marginalized. He centered the poor. And in a moment like this, we need voices, particularly voices of faith, who would use our faith not as a weapon to beat other people down but as a bridge to bring all of us together.”

GLAAD said in a statement that people can celebrate Easter and also show support for the trans community. Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO said, “The date of Easter moves each year, while Trans Day of Visibility is always recognized on March 31, but this year right-wing politicians and talking heads are using the coincidental timing to overshadow the hope and joy that Easter represents.”

GLAAD also posted details about trans life and the issues facing trans Americans on their website and tweeted, “Fact Check: Easter changes dates each year and Trans Day of Visibility always falls on March 31. Anyone who says anything different is sadly overshadowing the hope and joy that Easter represents. #TDOV #TransDayOfVisibility”

In keeping with Biden’s messaging on trans people’s rights, on April 2, Wisconsin’s Democratic governor — Tony Evers — vetoed a bill that would have banned high school transgender athletes from competing on teams that align with their gender identity, promising he would veto “any bill that makes Wisconsin a less safe, less inclusive, and less welcoming place for LGBTQ people and kids.”

Not to be outdone, late in the night on April 2, Jenner doubled down on her messaging, declaring in a tweet, “November 5th is going to be CHRISTIAN VISIBILITY DAY! That’s leadership! That’s America’s President! @realDonaldTrump MAGA!!!”

The battle continues.

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