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Joe Biden LGBT rights record: Former VP launches presidential bid

Nick Duffy April 25, 2019
US Vice President Joseph Biden addresses the Spring Equality Convention of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) March 6, 2015 in Washington, DC.

US Vice President Joseph Biden addresses the Spring Equality Convention of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) March 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty)

As Barack Obama’s former Vice President Joe Biden announces his own run for US president, we look at his LGBT rights record.

The candidate launched his long-rumoured campaign for President on Thursday (April 25), with polls making him the immediate favourite to clinch the nomination, ahead of Bernie Sanders and gay candidate Pete Buttigieg.

Serving as vice president of the United States between 2008 and 2016, Biden earned a reputation as a solid supporter of LGBT+ rights, advocating for equal rights in the US and around the world.

Biden was credited with forcing Barack Obama’s hand on same-sex marriage in 2012, by backing equality in a TV interview while the president was still officially ‘evolving’ on the issue.

In his book Promise Me, Dad, Biden admitted that his comments caught the president and his entire team off-guard.

Joe Biden LGBT rights record: US President Barack Obama and US Vice President Joe Biden attend a reception in honor of LGBT Pride Month in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, June 24, 2015.
US President Barack Obama and US Vice President Joe Biden attend a reception in honor of LGBT Pride Month in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, June 24, 2015. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty)

He said: “I went into the Oval Office the day after and the president just stood up and walked around his desk with a big grin on his face.

“‘Well, Joe,’ he said, ‘you told me you weren’t going to wear any funny hats or change your brand.’

“He joked that I had sent everybody into an uproar and said the campaign did have some work to do, but he didn’t take me to task for speaking my mind about an issue I cared about deeply.”

Within days of Biden’s interview, Obama had also come out in favour of same-sex marriage.

Lightning struck again in 2014 when Biden backed an executive order banning anti-LGBT workplace discrimination before the president responded to calls for action.

Biden got his way on that occasion as well, with Obama reversing his position again and signing an order just two months later.

He was first vice president to officiate a same-sex wedding

Biden made history in 2016 when he carried out a same-sex wedding at the official residence of the vice president, the US Naval Observatory.

White House staffers Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie asked Biden to preside over their wedding ceremony at his Washington, DC residence and he happily obliged, obtaining a temporary certificate from the District of Columbia in order to perform the wedding.

He posted a photo of the ceremony on Twitter, with the message: “Proud to marry Brian and Joe at my house. Couldn’t be happier, two longtime White House staffers, two great guys.”

Joe Biden officiates the wedding of White House staffers Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie
Joe Biden officiates the wedding of White House staffers Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie (Official photo)

The wedding led to attacks from anti-LGBT activists.

Franklin Graham, who would later preach at Donald Trump’s inauguration, said: “Sadly, as a nation we have a reputation for celebrating what God has defined as sin, and there will be a price to pay.

“Our country may have made same-sex marriage legal in the eyes of man, but that doesn’t make it right in the eyes of God… He is clear in His Word that marriage is between a man and a woman and that homosexuality is wrong.”

It was not Biden’s only same-sex wedding. He conducted ceremonies for gay couples on a number of occasions since.

Joe Biden had ‘run-ins’ with world leaders on LGBT+ rights

Biden has also confessed to “run-ins with at least four heads of state” after challenging their LGBT rights records during official meetings.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2016, Biden attacked the arguments that some ‘cultures’ don’t accept homosexuality, saying: “LGBT people face violence, harassment, unequal treatment, mistreatment by cops, denial of health care, isolation… always in the name of ‘culture.’

US Vice President Joe Biden and Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki give a joint media briefing on June 8, 2010 at state house in Nairobi.
Joe Biden LGBT rights record: US Vice President Joe Biden and Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki give a joint media briefing on June 8, 2010 at state house in Nairobi. (SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty)

“I’ve had it up to here with ‘culture.’ I really mean it. Culture never justifies rank, raw, discrimination or violation of human rights. There is no cultural justification. None. None. None.

“How can countries still be hiding behind ‘This is our culture?’ People used to be cannibals, that was part of the ‘culture.’ People used to do terrible things as part of the ‘culture.’

“The progress of humankind has been a steady progress towards acknowledging the basic fundamental rights of other people.”

Biden Foundation has advocated for LGBT+ equality

After leaving office, Biden opened the Biden Foundation to carry on his work advocating for equality.

The former vice president made “ensuring LGBTQ equality” one of the key planks of the organisation, working to bolster inclusion across the US and challenge the “vile practice of conversion therapy.”

The foundation teamed up with the YMCA for an LGBT inclusion programme, working “to ensure that each local Y is serving its LGBTQ members and surrounding community in the best possible way.”

Biden also launched an “As You Are” campaign to raise awareness of “the importance of family acceptance in the lives of LGBTQ young people,” working with Cyndi Lauper and former NFL star Wade Davis.

Joe Biden has been hailed as an LGBT ‘hero’

Biden received the inaugural LGBT hero award at Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Gala in 2017.

Accepting the award, Biden said: “Over the years, many of you have thanked me for stating the obvious. Some of you credit me with taking a political risk.

“From the bottom of my heart, there was no risk. I took no chance. I was just answering what I’ve known all my life, that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity.”

The Vice President officiates a wedding
Joe Biden LGBT rights record: Joe Biden officiates a same-sex wedding in 2017.

Biden’s support for LGBT rights also led the homophobic Westboro Baptist Church to picket the funeral of his late son Beau Biden in 2015.

Biden’s son served as Attorney General of Delaware, and like his father was a staunch defender of LGBT rights, fighting for equal marriage and introducing non-discrimination laws in the state while battling cancer.

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