While most of the 2020 Democratic candidates for president were out in California for an annual meeting of the state Democratic party, Joe Biden was in Ohio to speak at a gala hosted by the Human Rights Campaign. The large gathering in Columbus hosted by the largest gay rights organization in the country allowed Biden to kick off Pride month by claiming he’d fight for LGBT rights through actions such as making the Equality Act a focus of his legislative agenda.
Biden’s speech comes at a time when the current occupant of the White House is trying to portray himself as friendly towards the LGBT community. During a series of tweets he sent out last week, for instance, Donald Trump said we should “celebrate the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great nation” as “we celebrate LGBT Pride Month.” Of course, these comments seem to stand in direct contrast to the policies his administration has been implementing and Biden made sure he drew attention to Trump’s actual record.
While standing at the lectern, Biden showed some clear cut differences between him and Trump by showing he understands the need for the Equality Act — legislation that would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in a variety of areas. As he put it, “you can get married because the Supreme Court now says that, but you can walk into your place of employment in so many states and be fired.” The conversation continued by focusing in on the violence perpetuated against the LGBT community, including the five transgender people of color who have already been murdered this year.
The speech also further emphasized how it’s simply unacceptable for the Trump administration to take steps towards rolling back protections for the LGBT community. Among the policies he highlighted were Trump’s decision to make it easier for doctors to deny treatment to members of the LGBT community and allow homeless shelters to prevent transgender people from seeking assistance.
“Uncle Joe,” as he’s sometimes referred to by his supporters, went on to suggest it was wrong for people to claim that legislation protecting LGBT rights like the Equality Act would result in violating religious freedom. In particular, he claimed Mike Pence was simply using the religious freedom argument as “an excuse to license discrimination” and said “it is immoral what they’re doing.”
With a lot of people thinking the struggle for basic equality is over now that same-sex couples can get married, it’s good to see politicians give attention to other issues that are crucial to the LGBT community. When it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage, however, many LGBT supporters of Biden’s campaign have highlighted how he came out in support of marriage equality before President Obama did back in 2012. As Biden pointed out in his speech, a lot of pundits at the time thought he “had just committed this gigantic blunder” but it ended up helping to move the discussion forward.
Of course, Joe Biden isn’t the only candidate in the Democratic primary who supports LGBT rights. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and others have consistently advocated for equality and their campaigns have actively been reaching out to the community (including through lighthearted ways such as having a variety of rainbow themed apparel for Pride month). It was simply interesting to watch how a major candidate for president tried to separate himself from the field by speaking at a Human Rights Campaign event instead of the convention most of the other candidates attended.