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Bernie Sanders suspends presidential campaign, leaving Joe Biden to face Trump. Here’s what that means for LGBT+ people

Nick Duffy April 8, 2020
Democratic presidential hopeful former US vice president Joe Biden

Democratic presidential hopeful former US vice president Joe Biden (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Former vice president Joe Biden is now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, after Bernie Sanders announced his exit from the race.

The independent Vermont senator suspended his campaign on Wednesday after falling significantly behind Biden in the Democratic primaries..

His exit from the race clears the path for Biden, who served as vice president from 2008 to 2016, to take on Donald Trump in November.

What has Joe Biden promised to do for LGBT+ rights?

Like many of the Democratic candidates in the race, Biden has detailed an extensive platform of policies for the LGBT+ community.

In the platform, Biden has pledged to use his executive power to “immediately reverse the discriminatory actions” of the Trump-Pence administration as he takes office, putting non-discrimination rules protecting LGBT+ people back into force, closing carved-out ‘religious freedom’ loopholes, and ending the ban on transgender people in the armed forces.

He has also pledged to make the Equality Act, a bill to prohibit discrimination against LGBT+ people across all 50 states, a “top legislative priority” during his first 100 days in office.

Biden has also pledged to boost gender recognition so that “every transgender or non-binary person [can] have the option of changing their gender marker to ‘M,’ ‘F,’ or ‘X’ on government identifications, passports, and other documentation”.

The presumptive Democratic nominee has also vowed to boost the enforcement of hate crime laws, and “direct federal resources to help prevent violence against transgender women, particularly transgender women of colour”.

Democratic presidential hopeful former US Vice President Joe Biden
Democratic presidential hopeful former US Vice President Joe Biden (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

He has also pledged to work towards a ban on conversion therapy, and to use US foreign policy to “advance protections for LGBT+ people, fight for decriminalisation of LGBT+ identities and relationships, and respond swiftly and meaningfully to threats to LGBT+ rights or safety globally” around the world.

Biden has personally addressed LGBT+ issues in many of his speeches on the campaign trail – in contrast to Donald Trump, who has never published an LGBT+ policy plan and appears unaware of even minor changes on LGBT+ issues during his term in office.

What is Joe Biden’s record on LGBT+ rights?

Serving as Barack Obama’s vice president between 2008 and 2016, Biden earned a reputation as a solid supporter of LGBT+ rights, advocating for equal rights both 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 2014, Biden also backed an executive order banning anti-LGBT+ workplace discrimination, before the president had responded to calls for action.

The vice president later made history when he carried out the first same-sex wedding at his official residence at the US Naval Observatory – an act that, naturally, has not been repeated under Mike Pence.

At the end of his term as vice president, Biden revealed he had “run-ins with at least four heads of state” after challenging their anti-LGBT+ laws during official meetings.

Biden received the inaugural LGBT+ hero award at Democratic National Committee’s LGBT+ Gala in 2017, and made “ensuring LGBT+ equality” one of the key planks of his non-profit Biden Foundation – campaigning to challenge the “vile practice of conversion therapy”.

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. (Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

During the campaign, Biden faced attacks from Bernie Sanders over his 1994 Senate vote for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – the reviled ‘compromise’ plan on gays in the military which was engineered by Bill Clinton to end homophobic witch hunts, but is now seen to have merely entrenched the ban on gay soldiers.

However, Biden had long since disavowed ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ by the time it was repealed by the Obama administration in 2010, actively overseeing the efforts to scrap the ban entirely.

Biden’s campaign sought to shrug off the attacks from Sanders, pointing to his record on LGBT+ rights since 2008, in contrast to his votes 25 years ago.

His campaign has enjoyed support from a number of prominent LGBT+ political figures, including Congressional LGBT+ Equality Caucus co-chair Sean Patrick Maloney, out Senator Kyrsten Sinema, and former Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg.

Biden has promised a cabinet role to Buttigieg, saying: “I indicated to him that if I become the nominee, I’d come and ask him to be part of the administration, to be engaged in moving things forward.”

More: Bernie Sanders, democratic primary, Donald Trump, Equality Act, joe biden, joe biden lgbt, presidential election 2020

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