US Vice President Biden makes surprise LGBT rights intervention on Australia visit
US Vice President Joe Biden has warned Australia that “talk is cheap” on equality, in a surprise LGBT rights intervention in the country.
The VP has this week been on a tour of Australia, where right-wing PM Malcolm Turnbull, who has come under fire from LGBT activists on a string of issues, recently narrowly won reelection.
Earlier this year Turnbull bowed to pressure from anti-LGBT conservatives in his party to ‘censor’ a government-backed inclusive sex education programme. He has also blocked a Parliamentary vote on equal marriage to appease the rebels, opting to hold a repeatedly-delayed public vote instead.
In his speech in Sydney’s Paddington Town Hall this week, Vice President Biden directly intervened on LGBT rights, praising local laws passed in the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales aimed at expunging historic gay sex convictions.
Speaking about developments in the US, he said: “Equality really is the watchword…. and though we sometimes stumble, we keep taking steps to extend true equality to more and more people.
“I’m extremely proud of the work our administration has done to advance the rights of the LGBT community in the United States, to celebrate the lives and loves of all Americans.
“And recently in Australia, both Victoria and New South Wales issued historic apologies for the past mistreatment of LGBT individuals under the law.
“It’s a powerful gesture that sets the stage to move forward, so that institutionalized discrimination and mistreatment of the community can never happen again. ”
However, he added: “We not only share the same values, we understand that talk is cheap.
“In our Constitution we use the phrase ‘in order to form a more perfect union’ – we mean it. We have a long way to go.
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“But it’s in order to form a ‘more perfect union’. We’ve been willing to stand up for our values, make the changes we wish to see in the world a reality.”
It would certainly not be time Mr Biden, a fierce supporter of LGBT rights, has intervened for equality.
He confessed recently that he has had “run-ins with at least four heads of state” after challenging their LGBT rights records during official meetings.
He has even famously stepped on the toes of President Obama.
He forced the President’s hand on same-sex marriage in May 2012, by backing it while the President was still officially ‘evolving’ on the issue.
A book later claimed that “chaos erupted inside the West Wing” after news of Biden’s comments – and within days Obama had also come out in favour of same-sex marriage.
Lightning struck again when the VP backed an executive order banning anti-LGBT workplace discrimination in 2014, when the President had already rebuffed calls for executive action.
Mr Biden got his way on that occasion as well, with Obama reversing his position again and signing an order just two months later.