President Joe Biden called efforts to restrict transgender rights in Florida “close to sinful” in an interview released Monday, suggesting federal laws should be passed to protect those rights in all states.
“What’s going on in Florida is, as my mother would say, close to sinful. It’s just terrible what they’re doing,” Biden said during an interview with Kal Penn for “The Daily Show.”
Biden’s comments came as an unprecedented number of measures are introduced in state legislatures this year that are seeking to restrict LGBTQ rights. The proposed bills cover a wide range of policies, including some that seek to restrict transgender people from competing on sports teams or using bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
Youth and medical care is a growing legislative focus. Florida will soon enact a measure banning gender-affirming medical care for youth, including barring doctors from prescribing puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgeries for patients under 18. Tennessee passed a law this month banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth.
Biden didn’t specify which rules he found offensive, but said that efforts to restrict the rights of trans individuals were “cruel.”
“It’s not like a kid wakes up one morning and says, You know, I decided I wanted to become a man or want to become a woman or I want to change. I mean, what are they thinking about here? They’re human beings. They love, they have feelings, they have inclinations,” he said.
“It just, to me, is, I dunno, it’s cruel,” he went on.
“And the way we do it is make sure we pass legislation like we passed on same-sex marriage. You mess with that, you’re breaking the law, and you’re going to be held accountable,” he said.
At least 385 bills targeting LGBTQ rights and queer life have been introduced around the country through March 7, according to data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union. The number of bills has already surpassed last year’s total of 306, according to ACLU data shared with CNN.
In the interview, Biden also affirmed his support for same-sex marriage, describing an epiphany when he was young after seeing two “well-dressed men” kissing outside an office building in Delaware.
“I’ll never forget – I turned and looked at my dad. He said, ‘Joey, it’s simple. They love each other,’” he said.
Despite the early view into same-sex relationships, Biden still voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 when he was a senator, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
His views on the issue evolved, and in 2012, when he was serving a vice president, Biden delivered an unexpected endorsement of same-sex marriage in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
At the end of last year, Biden signed into law landmark new federal protections for same-sex and interracial couples, capping both a personal and national evolution on an issue that’s enjoyed growing acceptance over the past decade.
In the interview, Biden lightly ribbed Penn – an actor who also worked in the Obama White House – for putting off marriage after getting engaged to his partner five years ago.
“Listen to your auntie and your uncle: get married. Do it now. Don’t wait,” he said.
CNN’s Nicole Chavez and Jalen Brown contributed to this report.