April 8, 2021 at 4:21 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
WH defers to Justice Dept. on legal action against anti-trans laws

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. (Screen capture via CSPAN)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday President Biden would continue to advocate for equal justice under the law for LGBTQ people amid a flurry of new state laws against transgender youth, but stopped short of committing to legal action against them.

Psaki, in response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade on whether Biden would reach out to the attorney general on the anti-transgender laws, deferred to the U.S. Justice Department on the matter.

“I can’t stand here and predict legal action,” Psaki said. “Obviously, that would be a decision that would be made by the Justice Department and the attorney general.”

But Psaki, who has previously stated transgender rights are human rights, reaffirmed Biden’s advocacy for LGBTQ people, including transgender people.

“What I can say is that the president’s view is that all persons should receive equal treatment under the law no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Psaki said. “That’s fundamental to how he will make laws — advocate for laws, I should say — how he will communicate about his views on the rights of transgender individuals in the country, and certainly what his view is as it relates to the actions by the government.”

Asked by the Blade in a follow-up question why Biden shouldn’t reach out to the attorney general on legal action, Psaki replied, “He certainly can. I don’t have anything to predict for you at this time.”

Transgender advocates are looking to the courts to strike down the rash of anti-transgender laws in the states, including a measure in Arkansas criminalizing transition-related care for transgender youth, including hormones and puberty blockers. The Arkansas Legislature enacted the measure into law this week by overriding a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchison, although legal advocates have threatened to sue to seek relief.

The Justice Department under the Obama administration had initiated lawsuits against anti-trans laws and discrimination. Under former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department in 2015 filed a lawsuit against Southeastern Oklahoma State University for allegedly discriminating against a professor for being transgender and retaliating against her when she complained. Later, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in 2016 filed litigation against North Carolina over House Bill 2, which prohibited transgender people from using restrooms in government-owned buildings consistent with their gender identity.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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