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Joe Biden says LGBT+ rights will be his number one priority if he wins 2020 election

Trump administration is 'disaster for human rights', Democratic frontrunner says

Maya Oppenheim
Wednesday 05 June 2019 10:20 BST
Mr Biden takes aim at the 'current vice president' for using religious freedom as 'a way to license discrimination broad areas and denying LGBT+ basic rights'
Mr Biden takes aim at the 'current vice president' for using religious freedom as 'a way to license discrimination broad areas and denying LGBT+ basic rights' (Reuters)

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said enshrining LGBT+ protections into the nation’s labour and civil rights law would be his main priority if he wins the White House.

Passing the Equality Act “will be the first thing” he would “ask to be done” he said during a keynote address to 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.

It passed the Democrat-controlled House last month, with support from every member of the party in office. But it will not become law under Mr Trump and the Republican Senate, who will refuse to ratify it.

That means LGBT+ residents in dozens of states are still subject to various forms of discrimination that are either specifically allowed or not barred by state law.

Mr Biden condemned the Trump administration during his speech.

He hit out at attempts to bar transgender troops in the US military, allowing medical workers to refuse treatment to members of LGBT+ community and homeless shelters to bar transgender people.

“It’s wrong and it is immoral what they’re doing,” he said.

He added: “Just like with racial justice and women’s rights, we are seeing pushback against all the progress we’ve made towards equality”.

The Equality Act would address many such discriminatory practices.

It was Mr Biden's first visit to Ohio, widely considered a bellweather state for the White house, since he launched his bid for the presidency.

Shawn Copeland, the Human Rights Campaign’s Ohio director, said it has identified about 1.8 million “equality voters” in Ohio, including 400,000 LGBT+ citizens, plus their family members, friends and other allies.

Mr Trump got 2.84 million Ohio votes in 2016, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 2.4 million.

Mr Biden said that there had been at least five black transgender women who have been violently killed in America so far this year – calling for it to end.

“It has to stop,” he said. “And the fastest way to end it is to end the Trump administration!”

He listed the percentage of LGBT+ children and teenagers who attempt or consider suicide.

“I don’t have to tell you how hard it is for these kids, because many of you were these kids,” he said. “The terror in your heart as you spoke your truth.”

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He argued the Trump administration was a “disaster for human rights”, adding that it had damaged America’s standing on human rights globally.

He hit out at Mr Trump for using the office as a “bully pulpit” and said he is “callously extending his power” by introducing discriminatory policies such as “the Muslim ban, turning away asylum seekers [and] putting children in cages.”

Mr Biden also took aim at the "current vice president” Mike Pence for using religious freedom as “a way to license discrimination broad areas and denying LGBT+ basic rights.”

The politician delighted in recalling the 2012 presidential campaign when he announced his support for same-sex marriage before President Barack Obama had done so.

Mr Biden recalled that most political observers “thought I had just committed this gigantic blunder.” He said that before the interview, he told Obama that if he was asked whether he supported gay marriage, he “would not hold back.” He said that the day after the interview was broadcast, the former president hugged him and said: “Well, you warned me.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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