President Biden forcefully pushed back Thursday against a rash of “cruel” state laws curtailing the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, including transgender youths, saying the measures are being adopted by “prejudiced people” and pledging that his administration will stand up for those being targeted.

“It’s wrong that extreme officials are pushing hateful bills targeting transgender children, terrifying families and criminalizing doctors,” Biden said. “These are our kids. These are our neighbors.”

Biden made his comments during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Earlier in the day, the White House unveiled several new initiatives aimed at bolstering the LGBTQ+ community.

The White House planned to hold an event Thursday night billed as “the largest Pride celebration in White House history.” The event, with thousands of invitees and featuring entertainment by the singer Betty Who, was postponed to Saturday because of the hazardous air quality in the region.

During the news conference, Biden mentioned several of the initiatives unveiled earlier Thursday. They are aimed at protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, addressing mental health and homelessness issues prevalent in the community, and countering book bans at state and local levels.

While touting those and other measures he has embraced as president, such as reversing a ban on transgender troops in the military, Biden acknowledged the political head winds he faces.

“Our fight is far, far from over because we have some hysterical and, I would argue, prejudiced people who are engaged in what you see going on around the country,” he said.

Biden called the push for new anti-LGBTQ+ laws “an appeal to fear” that is “totally, thoroughly unjustified, ugly” and “wrong.”

The president then spoke directly to those being targeted: “LGBTQ Americans, especially children, you’re loved, you’re heard. And this administration has your back. And I mean it. We are not relenting one single second to make sure that they’re protected.”

On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign, which bills itself as the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, declared a “state of emergency” for LGBTQ+ individuals living in the United States. A report from the organization detailed more than 525 pieces of state legislation introduced this year that it considers hostile to the LGBTQ+ community, with nearly half the bills targeting transgender people. More than 75 such bills have been signed into law this year, a record, the HRC said.

Several Republican presidential candidates have also expressed support for such actions.

Appearing in Iowa on Wednesday, former vice president Mike Pence said he would support a national ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors. Nineteen Republican-led states, including Iowa, have adopted laws to prevent transgender people under 18 from accessing medical care such as hormone blockers or gender-affirming surgeries.

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last month signed several bills restricting LGBTQ+ rights, including a measure that bars transgender people from using the public facilities that align with their gender identities. Another bill added provisions to legislation passed last year that limits classroom discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity. Critics have dubbed it the “don’t say gay” bill.

In a proclamation designating June as Pride Month, Biden derided what he called the “hateful laws” targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

“Books about LGBTQI+ people are being banned from libraries,” he said. “Transgender youth in over a dozen States have had their medically necessary health care banned. Homophobic and transphobic vitriol spewed online has spilled over into real life, as armed hate groups intimidate people at Pride marches and drag performances, and threaten doctors’ offices and children’s hospitals that offer care to the LGBTQI+ community.”

The initiatives announced Thursday by the White House include the appointment of a new coordinator in the Education Department to “address the growing threat that book bans pose for the civil rights of students.” An April report from PEN America, a pro-free-speech organization, found local book bans rose during the first half of this school year, many stemming from new state laws.

Biden also announced a new partnership among several federal agencies, including the Justice Department, to address hate-fueled crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals.

The White House said the Department of Housing and Urban Development is launching a new initiative targeting homelessness among LGBTQ+ youths. And the department will also issue regulations designed to prevent discrimination in human services programs that support children and families.

“We know that there’s more work to do, but these meaningful steps will help protect our communities, they will help protect Americans, and they demonstrate our commitment to standing proudly with the LGBT community in the enduring struggle for freedom, justice and equality,” White House domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden told reporters Wednesday.

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