President Joe Biden is celebrating Pride Month with a series of activities on Friday, a reflection of the growing stature of the LGBTQ community at the White House despite the long history of widespread discrimination it has endured.
Biden is naming a Jessica Stern as a special diplomatic envoy at the State Department for LGBTQ rights. Her responsibilities will involve ensuring that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect LGBTQ rights around the world. Stern is currently executive director of OutRight Action International, which defends human rights and works to prevent abuses of LGBTQ people.
In her new role, Stern will also help put in place a presidential memorandum to advance the rights of LGBTQ people as well as bring together like-minded governments, nonprofits and corporations to uphold equality and dignity, according to the White House.
The focus also carries personal resonance for many in the Biden administration. Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, tweeted out her own story Friday about coming out to her mother at the age of 16 and the revolted look in response that left her sexuality a family secret for many years.
“I’m proud to be an out Black Queer woman and I have been for quite some time,” she wrote. “I’m happy to say, my Mother is now proud of ALL of who I am; she loves my partner and she loves being a doting grandmother to the daughter we are raising.”
Jean-Pierre added that her journey toward acceptance was not easy but it was worthwhile.
Later Friday, Biden plans to sign into law a measure that designates the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, as a national memorial. A mass shooting at the club in June 2016 left 49 people dead and 53 wounded in what was the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community in U.S. history.
After the signing, Biden, a Democrat, is expected to make remarks on Pride Month.