Metro Weekly

Joe Biden to Trans Americans: “I Have Your Back”

President Joe Biden called for greater LGBTQ protections and offered comfort to the transgender community in his State of the Union speech.

President Joe Biden delivering the 2024 State of the Union address to Congress. – Photo: C-SPAN.

President Joe Biden offered words of support during his State of the Union address on Thursday, March 7, telling transgender Americans — many of whom feel increasingly under attack by efforts to restrict visible expressions of identity or gender-nonconformity — “I have your back.”

In a speech characterized by many pundits as “fiery,” “energetic,” “impassioned,” and combative, Biden verbally parried with some Republican members of Congress who sought to heckle or “troll” him, especially on the issue of immigration and border security, as reported by CNN.

The president also denounced book-banning — which conservatives have espoused, ostensibly in order to protect children from sexually-tinged or LGBTQ content — as attempts to erase history.

He then pivoted, urging Congress to pass the Equality Act, a sweeping piece of legislation that would enshrine prohibitions on LGBTQ discrimination in various areas and aspects of life, into law. The act was passed two separate times in the U.S. House of Representatives when it was controlled by Democrats, but has never received a vote in the U.S. Senate.

“Stop denying another core value of America our diversity across American life,” Biden said, echoing nearly identical comments he’s made in the past as part of his stump speech. “Banning books — it’s wrong! Instead of erasing history, let’s make history! I want to protect other fundamental rights! Pass the Equality Act, and my message to transgender Americans: I have your back!”

Throughout the speech, Biden sought to distinguish himself from former President Trump, who he will face off against in this year’s general election, emphasizing the importance of “honesty, decency, dignity, [and] equality” as core American values — a veiled reference to Trump’s often belligerent, coarse, and venom-filled rhetoric. 

He also repeated well-worn Democratic talking points about a “battle for the soul of our nation,” invoking the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol and the Trump supporters who had flocked to Washington, D.C. in an effort to protest — with some even hoping to stop — the certification of the 2020 presidential election results, which conservatives have claimed were marred by fraud.

“Insurrectionists stormed this very Capitol and placed a dagger at the throat of American democracy,” Biden said. “We all saw with our own eyes these insurrectionists were not patriots. They had come to stop the peaceful transfer of power and to overturn the will of the people.”

“January 6th and the lies about the 2020 election, and the plots to steal the election, posed the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War,” Biden added. “But they failed. America stood strong and democracy prevailed.

“But we must be honest, the threat remains and democracy must be defended,” he said. “My predecessor and some of you here [in Congress] seek to bury the truth of January 6th. I will not do that. This is a moment to speak the truth and bury the lies. And here’s the simplest truth: You can’t love your country only when you win.”

While the rest of Biden’s speech did not mention LGBTQ issues specifically, he did allude to a positive vision of a more inclusive America — one that presumably includes LGBTQ people — casting many of his proposed solutions to pressing issues as part of that vision.

“I see a future for all Americans,” Biden said. “I see a country for all Americans. And I will always be a president for all Americans. Because I believe in America. I believe in you the American people….So let’s build that future together. Let’s remember who we are…. There is nothing beyond our capacity when we act together.”

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