Former Vice President Joe Biden, surging in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination after a series of recent primary victories, today released his plan to advance LGBTQ equality.
Biden promises to make enactment of the Equality Act during his first 100 days as president a top legislative priority, reverse the transgender military ban as well as military policies that discriminate against people with HIV, work to end suicide among LGBTQ young people, end the misuse of religious exemptions to enable anti-LGBTQ discrimination, address violence against LGBTQ people (something especially affecting transgender women of color), and more, according to a document issued by his presidential campaign.
“Joe Biden believes that every human being should be treated with respect and dignity and be able to live without fear no matter who they are or who they love,” the document begins. “During the Obama-Biden Administration, the United States made historic strides toward LGBTQ+ equality — from the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to Biden’s historic declaration in support of marriage equality on Meet the Press in 2012 to the unprecedented advancement of protections for LGBTQ+ Americans at the federal level.”
It goes on to note efforts by Donald Trump and Mike Pence to undo this progress “by blocking the ability of transgender individuals to openly serve their country, denying LGBTQ+ people access to critical health care, proposing policies allowing federally funded homeless shelters to turn away transgender people and federally funded adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples, and failing to address the epidemic of violence against transgender people — particularly transgender women of color.”
Biden promises to not only reinstate the pro-equality policies that he and President Barack Obama enacted but to expand them. He pledges to update strategies to fight HIV, work for a federal law classifying conversion therapy as consumer fraud, improve hate-crime reporting and data collection, assure that LGBTQ refugees and asylum-seekers have access to necessary services, repeal Trump’s travel and refugee bans, make sure that LGBTQ people have access to high-quality health care, promote a blood donation policy that reflects current science, and advance LGBTQ rights around the world as part of a broad human rights agenda.
The document also details Biden’s actions as vice president and before that as a U.S. senator from Delaware to support LGBTQ rights, including his endorsement of marriage equality, his role in repealing DADT and passing a federal hate-crimes law, championing LGBTQ inclusion in the Violence Against Women Act, original cosponsorship of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (the predecessor to the Equality Act, it never passed), and early support for resources to combat HIV and AIDS.
Biden has evolved on some of these issues over the years. In 1996, as a senator, he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal government recognition to same-sex marriages until the Supreme Court struck down that provision in 2013. And he voted for DADT in the 1990s, when it was proposed as a compromise alternative to the outright ban on military service by lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. President Bill Clinton met resistance to repealing the ban, so he and congressional allies agreed to DADT, which was supposed to make the situation of LGB service members better but ultimately did not.
Biden has since become a reliable LGBTQ ally, performing same-sex marriages, calling transgender rights the civil rights issue of our time, and promoted acceptance of LGBTQ youth through his charitable foundation.