Jill Biden Kicks Off Pride Month By Hailing Nancy Reagan, For Some Reason
First lady Jill Biden on Monday celebrated former first lady Nancy Reagan getting her face on a postage stamp. That might seem like a nice thing to do, except that she did this as LGBTQ Pride Month kicks off ― and Reagan’s husband’s administration spent years ignoring that gay men were dying by the thousands from AIDS complications.
Nancy Reagan “made such a difference,” Biden raved during a White House ceremony as she stood next to a massive image of the former first lady’s face on a stamp.
“First lady Nancy Reagan served the American people with grace,” she continued. “She understood that the role of first lady came with inherent pitfalls and scrutiny, yet she found the humanity in it all.”
Both Jill Biden and President Joe Biden are strong supporters of LGBTQ rights, which makes the decision to honor Reagan at the start of Pride Month ill-timed, at best.
Just last week, the president issued a proclamation declaring June 2022 “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Pride Month.”
“This month, we remind the LGBTQI+ community that they are loved and cherished,” President Biden said in his proclamation. “My Administration sees you for who you are — deserving of dignity, respect, and support.”
Former President Ronald Reagan was very different. Before becoming president, he referred to gay people as “sick unfortunates,” and as governor of California he stalled the repeal of the state’s anti-sodomy laws.
After coming to the White House in 1980, Reagan stayed silent for years as the AIDS epidemic ravaged the LGBTQ community. He didn’t give his first major public address on the AIDS crisis until May 1987, after thousands of people, mostly gay and bisexual men, had died. This was after he recommended cutting federal AIDS spending in 1986.
Nancy Reagan herself turned down a plea for help from her friend, actor Rock Hudson, who in 1985 was desperately trying to get treatment for AIDS in France. Nine weeks before he died, he asked the White House for help getting transferred to another hospital for an experimental treatment in a last-ditch effort to save his life. Nancy Reagan said no.
Monday’s event honoring Reagan also featured U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was recently sued by a former postal worker who claimed he was discriminated against and fired for being gay and HIV-positive.
DeJoy got the case dismissed entirely on a technicality.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the first openly LGBTQ person to hold this post, pointed HuffPost to the first lady’s office for comment.
Michael LaRosa, the press secretary for the first lady, said the timing of the event honoring Nancy Reagan was pegged to the opening of a building in D.C.
“This ceremonial postage stamp unveiling was timed to commemorate Mrs. Reagan’s centennial and was scheduled the day before the opening of the Ronald Reagan Institute building in D.C.,” LaRosa told HuffPost in a Tuesday statement.
“President Biden and the First Lady have a long and proud record of supporting, fighting for, and leading on, LGBTQ+ rights, and those living with HIV/AIDs,” he said. “Just last month, Dr. Biden visited a shelter in Panama for those living with HIV/AIDS and announced an additional $80 million in PEPFAR funds for the region. The White House and the First Family are planning several ways to honor and celebrate PRIDE month.”