US Vice President Joe Biden has identified LGBT rights as an “inseparable part of America’s promotion of human rights” in a call he made to Congress on Saturday to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Delivering a keynote speech at a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) gala in Los Angeles, Biden said it’s “close to barbaric” that employees can still be fired in some states because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
He said: “Imagine, 20 years from now, as America look back and say how in the hell could that have ever been allowed?
“The country’s moved on. The American people have moved on, it’s time for the Congress to move on, and pass ENDA. Pass ENDA now. Not tomorrow, now!”
He added, “If you think about it, it’s outrageous we’re even debating this subject. I really mean it. I mean it’s almost beyond belief that today, in 2014, I could say to you, as your employee in so many states, you’re fired, because of who you love. I mean think about that. It is bizarre, no-no-no, it really is. It really is, I didn’t even think most Americans even know that employers can do that.”
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It is already illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, nationality, religion, age or disability.
President Obama does have the power to enforce ENDA via an executive order – but the White House remains adamant that it should be implemented with congressional approval.
The Vice President added: “Barack and I believe that the rights of LGBT people is an inseparable part of America’s promotion of human rights around the world.
“It means speaking up against the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct, as President Obama has ordered all agencies working overseas to do. It means our annual state department report on human rights now speaks out by name, naming countries that mistreat LGBT people. It is consequential. It means providing training and tools to our diplomats around the world so that they can integrate LGBT rights into how we do American foreign policy in the 21st century and by the way, five of these missions are now run by openly gay ambassadors.”
“The single most basic of all human rights is the right to decide who you love. Hate can never, never be defended because it’s a so called cultural norm. I’ve had it up here with cultural norms… There’s never a justification for a government or individual politician to play off the bigotry and hatred.”
Biden also went on to criticise Russia’s anti-gay laws as well as its military intrusion into Crimea, Ukraine.
“The great anti-Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov said, ‘A country that does not respect the rights of its citizens will not respect the rights of its neighbor.’ And we’re seeing that today in Ukraine.”