Joe Biden criticised by crowd for suggesting mocking a ‘gay waiter’ was more socially acceptable five years ago

Some in crowd interjected by saying ‘Not in Seattle’

Maya Oppenheim
Sunday 30 June 2019 17:05 BST
Mr Biden made the remarks at a fundraising event in the billionaire-packed Seattle suburb of Medina
Mr Biden made the remarks at a fundraising event in the billionaire-packed Seattle suburb of Medina (Reuters)

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has been challenged by members of the crowd after suggesting that mocking a “gay waiter” was seen as socially acceptable five years ago.

Mr Biden made the remarks at a fundraising event hosted by former Microsoft president Jon Shirley in the wealthy Seattle suburb of Medina, which is home to billionaires including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.

The former vice president suggested that half a decade ago, someone at a business lunch could poke fun at a gay waiter and others at the table would silently sit by.

But some in the crowd interjected by saying: “Not in Seattle”.

Mr Biden said an individual who made such homophobic remarks would not be welcomed back at a restaurant today.

The Democratic frontrunner argued public feeling had come along way on LGBT+ issues but also noted it was wrong that in 22 states a gay couple could get married one day and then fired the next.

Mr Biden spent a great deal of his speech criticising Donald Trump – accusing the president of ingratiating himself with authoritarian foreign leaders such as Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The politician argued Mr Trump was responsible for dividing America in a way that no other president has – drawing attention to Mr Trump’s reaction to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in summer 2017.

Mr Trump said blame lay at “both sides” for the violence, drawing moral equivalence between white supremacists and anti-fascists. One woman was killed after a car ploughed into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters.

The president's response sparked condemnation from members of congress, leading business executives and military leaders at the time.

Mr Biden argued that “with that one statement of moral equivalence”, Mr Trump “ripped the moral fabric of this country.” He directly linked Mr Trump’s comments to an increase in antisemitism and hate crimes.

At another recent event, Mr Biden said enshrining LGBT+ protections into labour and civil rights laws would be his priority if he won the White House.

Passing the Equality Act “will be the first thing” he would ask for, he told hundreds of activists at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Ohio gala on the first day of Pride Month.

The Equality Act would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to ban discrimination in employment, housing, jury selection and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mr Biden also condemned the Trump administration during that speech. He hit out at attempts to bar transgender troops from the US military and criticised how LGBT+ people were blocked from medical treatment and homeless shelters.

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