President Joe Biden denounced Florida legislation restricting LGBTQ rights as "cruel" and "close to sinful" in an appearance Monday night on "The Daily Show."
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a likely 2024 GOP presidential candidate, and the state's Republican-dominated Legislature have enacted laws that ban classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in primary schools. They are also considering bills to block medical care, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery, for transgender youths and to grant courts emergency jurisdiction over children who might receive gender-affirming care. The state is at the start of its 2023 legislative session and is considering several other bills to further chip away at LGBTQ rights.
"What's going on in Florida is, as my mother would say, 'close to sinful,'" Biden said. “It’s just terrible what they’re doing."
“It’s not like a kid wakes up one morning and says, ‘You know, I decided I want to become a man' or 'I want to become a woman,'" he added. "I mean, what are they thinking about here? They’re human beings. They love, they have feelings, they have inclinations. It’s cruel."
DeSantis hit back Tuesday on Twitter, defending his efforts to restrict gender-affirming care, which he called the "mutilation of minors."
"It is not acceptable for the federal government to mandate that procedures like sex change operations be allowed for kids," DeSantis said.
Biden said the way to respond is to pass legislation "like we did with same-sex marriage." Last year, Biden signed legislation codifying protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.
"You mess with that, you’re breaking the law and you’re going to be held accountable," he said.
The House has twice passed the Equality Act, a landmark LGBTQ rights bill that would expand federal protections in employment, housing, education and other areas to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Although Biden said the act was a priority for his first 100 days in office, the Senate has not voted on it during his tenure.
The actor Kal Penn, who was a staffer in the Obama-Biden administration, conducted the interview with Biden, in which he also asked about the genesis of Biden's support for same-sex marriage. Biden recalled when he was a senior in high school and saw two men kiss each other.
"I turned and looked to my dad. He said, 'Joey, it’s simple. They love each other,'" Biden said. "It’s just that simple."