President Joe Biden on Friday commemorated Pride Month at the White House and designated the site of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting as a national memorial.
Biden signed legislation honoring the 49 people killed in a mass shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016, after a gunman stormed the venue with an AR-15-style assault rifle and pistol.
The legislation passed the Senate by voice earlier this month and the House passed its own version in May.
The president also announced his appointment of Jessica Stern, head of the New York human rights group OutRight Action International, as a special envoy at the State Department. Stern will help lead U.S. diplomatic efforts to advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ people around the world.
Biden signed the legislation alongside survivors of the shooting and victim’s family members as well as members of the Florida congressional delegation and Congressional Equality Caucus.
“The site of the deadliest attack affecting the LBGTQ+ community in American history is now a national memorial,” Biden said.
The president delivered remarks alongside Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who broke barriers by becoming the first openly gay man to serve in the Cabinet. The president was introduced by 16-year-old transgender advocate Ashton Mota. LGBTQ+ advocates, state and local elected officials and members of Congress were present.
“Us being here proves how much change is possible in America,” Buttigieg said at the podium.
Biden is also called for the Senate to pass the Equality Act, a landmark LGBTQ+ rights bill that would establish legal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans. The bill was passed by the House on Feb. 25 but faces a tougher battle in the evenly divided Senate.
He also denounced the recent proliferation of anti-LGBTQ+ bills passed in multiple states. Twenty-three states have considered more than 50 bills that target transgender youth during the 2021 legislative session, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“More than a dozen of them have already passed … let’s be clear, this is nothing more than bullying disguised as legislation,” Biden said.
Biden also outlined the steps his administration has taken to champion equality for LGBTQ+ Americans. This includes recognizing Pride Month in a June 1 proclamation, overturning a ban on transgender servicemembers serving in the military, and nominating LGBTQ+ officials to U.S. government positions, among others.
“Representation matters, recognition matters. Something else that matters is results,” Biden said at the White House. “I’m proud to lead the most pro LGBTQ equality administration in U.S. history.”