While the Joe Biden administration has made historic strides in advancing LGBTQ rights over the last two years, some advocates said the president’s State of the Union address this week could have — and perhaps should have — said more about an escalation of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and violence so extreme that it was the subject of a House hearing in December.
“Representation is power,” Sean Meloy, the vice president of political programs at the LGBTQ Victory Fund, told The Hill. “We’re still not at the point where we have elected an LGBTQ president, so we need our allies to really go to the floor with us and for us.”
Meloy said it would have sent a powerful message of support from the White House if Biden had used his State of the Union address this year to condemn a recent tidal wave of proposed legislation seeking to restrict the basic rights and freedoms of LGBTQ Americans.
“Feels like a walk back in the face of unprecedented hatred from the right,” Katelyn Burns, a freelance journalist and frequent MSNBC contributor, wrote on Twitter. “Awful big rhetoric gap on this issue between the parties.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of the LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD, told The Hill in an email that Biden has highlighted the need to protect young transgender people who face “rampant harassment and attacks at the state level” in prior national addresses.
“Last night, @POTUS only mentioned marriage equality but not legislative attacks to LGBTQ+ rights,” the National LGBTQ Task Force tweeted Wednesday, adding: “Was Biden’s speech enough?”
Just over 0.2% of elected officials nationwide identify as LGBTQ, despite more than7% of Americans identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
This year alone, more than 270 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, already nearing 2022’s record-breaking year-end total of 315 bills.
Bills and policy affecting the LGBTQ community may also be a big part of next year’s presidential election given the positions of two Republicans seen as the leading contenders for that party’s nomination: former President Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.