President Joe Biden signed an executive order that includes actions to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy. President Biden also expanded LGBTQ access to comprehensive health care, which includes support for youth in schools to help end suicide and eliminate LGBTQ homelessness. The order signed on June 15 addresses LGBTQ discrimination in foster care, strengthens support for older LGBTQ adults, and promotes increased federal data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The order was signed at the LGBTQ Pride Month reception for advocates and members of the community. It aims to strengthen protections for LGBTQ people during a time of unprecedented anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, legislation, and misinformation. The reception was streamed on the White House’s YouTube account.
During the reception Biden was introduced by Javier Gomez, an 18-year-old who helped organize protests against Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill at his high school. Gomez spoke to the crowd and recalled the moment he and other teen activists “looked into the eyes of those pushing this cruel and dangerous legislation and said, “It’s okay to be gay.”
President Biden delivered a message to LGBTQ youth: “Just be you. You are loved. You are heard and you are understood. You do belong.”
Biden said the main focus of the order is to protect LGBTQ youth who are increasingly targets of state legislation that limit access to health care and create unsupportive school environments. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, approximately 2 million youth ages 13-17 in the U.S. identify as LGBT, including 300,000 who identify as transgender.
A recent Williams Institute study estimated that 350,000 LGBT adults were subjected to conversion therapy as minors. Thousands of LGBTQ youth remain vulnerable to conversion therapy in the states that have not banned the practice. Separate research found that LGB people who experienced conversion therapy were almost twice as likely to think about and attempt suicide, compared to their peers who hadn’t experienced conversion therapy.
LGBTQ youth often face challenges at school and home. Several Williams Institute studies have documented widespread harassment and bullying of LGBTQ students. Recent research finds that one-third of LGBTQ people at four-year colleges were bullied, harassed, or assaulted, compared to 19 percent of non-LGBTQ people.
Similar supportive laws and policies that preceded this new executive order have also been linked to improving health and well-being for LGBTQ students. According to Williams Institute research, anti-bullying laws that protect youth based on sexual orientation are associated with fewer suicide attempts and stressful experiences, such as feeling unsafe at school, among students.
Other studies have found high proportions of LGBTQ youth in foster care, juvenile detention, and among the homeless youth population. For example, one study found that 19 percent of youth in foster care in Los Angeles were LGBTQ — two to three times their proportion in the general population.
This new executive order charges the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to identify and address barriers to housing for LGBTQ people. LGBTQ adults are twice as likely as the general population to have experienced homelessness in their lifetime. Transgender adults were six times more likely than cisgender straight people to have experienced homelessness in the past year.
The executive order instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to partner with state child welfare agencies to build capacity and prevent discrimination of LGBTQ people. Williams Institute research finds same-sex couples are seven times more likely than different-sex couples to be raising a foster or adopted child.
The executive order reinforces the administration’s commitment to serving LGBTQ people of all ages and demographics said the White House. It will address the 225 anti-LGBTQ bills filed so far in 2022 at the state level, as well as other policies that harm LGBTQ children and families.
“President Biden’s plan signals a renewed dedication to protecting LGBTQ youth at a time when an unprecedented amount of anti-LGBTQ legislation has been introduced by states,” said Elana Redfield, Federal Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “When government agencies adopt and enforce policies that affirm LGBTQ and intersex people, it makes a concrete difference in the lives of our communities.”