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Former President Barack Obama has criticized Republican-led efforts to push legislation nationwide restricting the rights and equality of transgender Americans.
In an interview with the Advocate, Obama was asked about the more than 100 anti-trans bills that have been introduced in legislatures across the country, which have led to a number of states criminalizing healthcare access for transgender youth or banning trans people from competing in sports according to their gender identity.
“For many years now, we’ve seen some Republicans seek political advantage by pitting us against one another, often by going after certain groups of people who just want equal treatment,” Obama responded.
“These bills are doing real harm — especially to young people — whether they end up passing or not. Growing up is hard enough, and at some point we all struggle to find our place in the world,” he continued. “I can’t imagine how difficult it is for young people to know that some leaders — including people who are supposed to be representing you — don’t think they deserve equal rights.”
He added: “It breaks my heart. This is not who we are. America has always been at its best when we open our arms wider and help more people feel like they belong — not treat them like second-class citizens because they’re different.”
Transgender people are under assault from Republican lawmakers across the country, who continue to push and pass bans anti-trans and broader anti-LGBTQ legislation.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis celebrated the start of Pride Month by signing a transgender sports ban into law, making the state the seventh so far this year to restrict athletes to competing based on the sex on their birth certificate.
The Human Rights Campaign has promised to sue the state over the ban, with the organization’s president, Alphonso David, saying they would ensure there are “legal consequences to pay for being on the wrong side of history.”
West Virginia faces a similar lawsuit over its recently passed ban on transgender athletes, with multiple state agencies included in a suit on behalf of Becky Pepper-Jackson, a transgender 11-year-old who is banned from trying out for the girls’ cross-country team at her middle school.
Arkansas also faces a lawsuit for its recently passed law barring health care professionals from providing gender-affirming care to transgender minors. The ACLU said the law is “devastating to trans youth and their families, forcing many to uproot their lives and leave the state to access the gender-affirming care they need.”
Amid the ongoing assault on trans rights, President Joe Biden, Obama’s former vice president, reiterated a message of support for the trans community during Pride Month.
In a tweet last week, Biden repeated a line from his April address to Congress, which specifically told trans youth that his administration supports them.
“To transgender Americans across the country — especially the young people who are so brave — I want you to know your President has your back,” Biden wrote. “During Pride Month — and all the time.”
Elsewhere in his interview, former President Obama touched on his LGBTQ legacy, which includes the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, as well as the ending of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
Obama said that he would “love” for his LGBTQ legacy to be “overshadowed,” as it would “mean another president was doing even more to protect LGBTQ rights.”
“It’s why I was so happy to see President Biden sign an executive order on his first day in office directing federal agencies to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Obama continued. “He also rolled back the previous administration’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military, and took other steps to support and protect LGBTQ communities here around the world.”
Obama added: “We obviously have more work to do. We need to do even more to guarantee basic rights and protections for every American. My hope is that whatever success we had while I was president proves that progress is possible.”
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