Joe Biden has said that his first act if elected President would be seeking to outlaw discrimination against LGBT+ people.
The Democratic 2020 challenger and former vice president told a Human Rights Campaign gala on Saturday (June 1) that passing the Equality Act, an LGBT+ non-discrimination law, would be one of his top priorities.
Praising the bill’s passage through the House of Representatives, he added: “Now we need to elect a Democratic Senate that will pass it.
“I promise you, if I’m elected President, it will be the first thing I will ask to be done, because it will send a message not just at home but around the world.”
He added: “This is the civil rights issue of our time. If it fails, think about what else fails. It would have a profound effect on who we are as people.”
The Equality Act would extend existing discrimination laws drawn up for the 1964 Civil Rights Act to also cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill has passed through Democrat-controlled House of Representatives with a groundswell of support, but the Republican leadership in the Senate have so far refused to bring the bill to a vote.
The Presidential hopeful also hit out at regressive anti-LGBT actions under the Trump White House.
He said: “Instead of using the power of the executive branch to ensure justice, safety and dignity for all, this White House is literally a bully pulpit.
“He’s callously extending his power over the most vulnerable, implementing discriminatory policies… and the current Vice President uses religious freedom as an excuse to license discrimination across broad areas, denying LGBTQ Americans their basic rights. It’s wrong and it is immoral what they’re doing.”
US Vice President Joseph Biden addresses the Spring Equality Convention of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) March 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty)
He added: “We see all this rhetoric for what it is, another way to drive a wedge between us and minimise the humanity of others. And that’s not what this country is about.”
Biden also attacked recent actions to gut healthcare protections for LGBT+ people and permit discrimination against trans people in homeless shelters, adding: “This is beyond the scope of anything we’ve remotely seen before.”
Serving as Barack Obama’s 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.
He made history in 2016 when he carried out a same-sex wedding at the official residence of the vice president at the US Naval Observatory.