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Joe Biden condemns Florida’s ‘cruel’ treatment of young transgender people: ‘Close to sinful’

President Joe Biden lamented Florida’s “cruel” treatment of transgender young people in an interview with The Daily Show as Governor Ron DeSantis and Republican state lawmakers advance a series of policies targeting gender-affirming care for trans Americans in the state.

“What’s going on in Florida, is, as my mother would say, close to sinful. It’s terrible what they’re doing,” the president said during an interview with The Daily Show’s Kal Penn.

“It’s not like a kid wakes up one morning and says, ‘You know, I’ve decided I want to become a man’ or ‘I want to become a woman’ … I mean, what are they thinking about here? They’re human beings. They love, they have feelings, they have inclinations,” he added. “It just, to me, is, I don’t know. It’s cruel.”

He suggested that Congress should pass legislation to protect access to gender-affirming care as Republican state lawmakers across the US advance a barrage of legislation targeting young trans people, from the sports that they can play as themselves to the bathrooms that they can use and what kind of medically recommended and potentially life-saving medical care they can receive.

“Mess with that, you’re breaking the law, and you’re going to be held accountable,” Mr Biden added.

Governor DeSantis – reportedly mulling his candidacy for president in 2024 – has imposed several measures targeting trans people in the state, including outlawing affirming healthcare for trans youth, prohibiting trans women and girls from participating in team sports in public secondary schools and colleges, requesting information about patients who accessed treatment for gender dysphoria at state university clinics, and denying affirming care to people of all ages who rely on Medicaid for their healthcare.

Lawmakers also introduced legislation to seize custody of children deemed “at risk” or “being subjected” to receiving gender-affirming care.

State lawmakers across the US this year have introduced more than 400 measures identified by the Human Rights Campaign as harmful to LGBT+ Americans, what the organisation has called a “historically bad” year of legislation following 2022’s unprecedented wave of anti-LGBT+ proposals.

At least 175 measures would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting trans Americans in a single year to date, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

At least eight states have enacted laws banning or restricting gender-affirming care for trans youth. More than 20 others are considering similar laws. At least three states are targeting care for trans people up to the ages of 21 and 26.

The onslaught of legislation and volatile political debate surrounding the bills have negatively impacted the mental health of an overwhelming majority of young trans and nonbinary people, according to recent polling from The Trevor Project and Morning Consult.

A separate survey from The Trevor Project found that 45 per cent of trans and nonbinary youth have seriously considered attempting suicide over the last year.

Anti-trans legislation and rhetoric have also consumed right-wing media, this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, and, increasingly, congressional committees, where lawmakers in Washington DC are mulling national bills that mirror the proposals dominating state capitols.

House Republicans reintroduced federal legislation to impose national restrictions against trans women and girls from competing in sports teams consistent with their gender, and far-right Georgia congresswoman Majorie Taylor Greene also has introduced a measure that would charge people providing gender-affirming support to trans youth with felony crimes.

President Biden compared potential legislation to protect access to affirming healthcare for trans Americans to recently enacted legislation that codified marriage equality as affirmed by the US Supreme Court into law.

In his interview withThe Daily Show, the president recalled his “epiphany” on gay rights when he was a high school senior in the 1950s.

“My dad was dropping me off. I remember I’m about to get out of the car and I look to my right. Two well-dressed men in suits kissed each other,” he said. “I turned and looked at my dad and he said, ‘Joey, it’s simple. They love each other.’ I’m not joking. ‘It’s simple. They love each other.’ It’s never been … it’s just that simple, it doesn’t matter whether they’re same sex or heterosexual couples.”

As a senator, however, Mr Biden voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which his signature on the Respect for Marriage Act more than 20 years later ultimately repealed.

He first publically announced his support for marriage equality as vice president in 2012, when he announced on NBC’s Meet the Press that he is “absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.”