Waymon Hudson

Breaking News: Obama chooses Joe Biden as Vice-President

Filed By Waymon Hudson | August 23, 2008 1:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Democrats, election 2008, Joe Biden, LGBT rights, vice presidential pick

The announcement just came out from various news agencies- obamadebate.jpgBarack Obama has named Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) as his vice-presidential running mate.

I wanted to put together a look at Biden's stance on LGBT rights over the years. Biden scored a 78% from the HRC 2006 rankings on LGBT rights. I've gathered information on his votes and quotes about hate crimes legislation, employment discrimination, DADT, immigration equality, marriage equality and civil unions. This list is by no means complete. If you know more information, feel free to leave it in the comments!

Extensive Joe Biden quotes and sources on LGBT issues after the jump.

Updates at the end of the post...

On Hate Crimes:

Voted YES on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation.

Vote on an amendment that would expand the definition of hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation and disability. The previous definition included only racial, religious or ethnic bias.

Reference: Bill S.2549 ; vote number 2000-136 on Jun 20, 2000

Voted YES on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.

Motion to Invoke Cloture on S. 625; Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001. The bill would expand the definition of hate crimes to incorporate acts committed because of a victim's sex, sexual orientation or disability and permit the federal government to help states prosecute hate crimes even if no federally protected action was implicated. If the cloture motion is agreed to, debate will be limited and a vote will occur. If the cloture motion is rejected debate could continue indefinitely and instead the bill is usually set aside. Hence a Yes vote supports the expansion of the definition of hate crimes, and a No vote keeps the existing definition. Three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 members, is required to invoke cloture.

Reference: Bill S.625 ; vote number 2002-147 on Jun 11, 2002

On Employment Discrimination:

Voted YES on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation.

Would have prohibited job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Status: Bill Defeated Y)49; N)50; NV)1

Reference: Employment Non-Discrimination Act; Bill S. 2056 ; vote number 1996-281 on Sep 10, 1996

"voiced support for ENDA, which would prohibit employment discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity."
- Society for Human Resource Management

On "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":

Nobody asks if you're gay in a foxhole

"I've been to Afghanistan, I've been to Iraq seven times, I've been in the Balkans, I've been in these foxholes with these kids, literally in bunkers with them. Let me tell you something, nobody asked anybody else whether they're gay in those foxholes. Our allies -- the British, the French, all our major allies -- gays openly serve. I don't know the last time an American soldier said to a backup from a Brit, 'Hey, by the way, let me check. Are you gay? Are you straight?' This is ridiculous."
- Joe Biden

Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College Jun 3, 2007

Checked YES in response a Human Rights Campaign questionnaire asking if the candidate "Supports repeal of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy."

On Immigration Equality:

Biden has not signed on as a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act:

Title: A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents and to penalize immigration fraud in connection with permanent partnerships.

Sponsor: Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] (introduced 5/8/2007) Cosponsors (14)
Related Bills: H.R.2221
Latest Major Action: 5/8/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Voted for PEPFAR, which included provisions to repeal the HIV Travel Ban

On Marriage Equality:

Civil unions ok; gay marriage is probably inevitable

Q: In November 2003, you were asked, "Do you believe gay marriage is inevitable?" And you responded, "I'm not sure. I think probably it is."

A: Well, I think it probably is because social mores change. But I don't think the government can dictate the definition of marriage to religious institutions. But government does have an obligation to guarantee that every individual is free of discrimination. And there's a distinction. I think government should not be able to dictate to religions the definition of marriage, but on a civil side, government has the obligation to strip away every vestige of discrimination as to what individuals are able to do in terms of their personal conduct.

So New Hampshire coming out in favor of civil unions is OK by you?

A: Yes. Yes, it is.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 "Meet the Candidates" series Apr 29, 2007

Voted NO on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.

Voting YES implies support for amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. This cloture motion to end debate requires a 3/5th majority. A constitutional amendment requires a 2/3rd majority. The proposed amendment is:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
Proponents of the motion say:

•If Members of the Senate vote as their States have voted on this amendment, the vote today will be 90 to 10 in favor of a constitutional amendment.
•Marriage is a foundational institution. It is under attack by the courts. It needs to be defended by defining it as the union of a man and a woman as 45 of our 50 States have done.

The amendment is about how we are going to raise the next generation. It is not an issue that the courts should resolve. Those of us who support this amendment are doing so in an effort to let the people decide.

Opponents of the motion say:
•This proposal pits Americans against one another. It appeals to people's worst instincts and prejudices.
Supporters rail against activist judges. But if this vaguely worded amendment ever passes, it will result in substantial litigation. What are the legal incidents of marriage? Is a civil union a marriage?
•Married heterosexual couples are wondering, how, exactly, the prospect of gay marriages threatens the health of their marriages.
•This amendment would make a minority of Americans permanent second-class citizens of this country. It would prevent States, many of which are grappling with the definition of marriage, from deciding that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry. And it would write discrimination into a document that has served as a historic guarantee of individual freedom.

Reference: Marriage Protection Amendment; Bill S. J. Res. 1 ; vote number 2006-163 on Jun 7, 2006

Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): Vote to prohibit marriage between members of the same sex in federal law, and provide that no state is required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Define 'marriage' as 'between one man and one woman.'

Reference: Bill HR 3396 ; vote number 1996-280 on Sep 10, 1996

Checked NO in response a Human Rights Campaign questionnaire asking if the candidate "Supports allowing civil marriage rights for same-sex couples."

On Civil Unions/Relationship Recognition:

But one of the things I think more Americans are trying to figure is whether or not somehow a gay union is a threat to a heterosexual union. And I find difficulty in figuring how it's such a threat, if in fact it brings stability, if in fact you have two women who decide to stay with one another for 35 years and are sound and solid in terms of their commitment to one another. I don't know why we should be frightened of that... I just keep thinking, what would happen if one of my children had been gay? I don't know that I'd love him anymore, or think that they need any -- or they're entitled to any fewer rights than any other American.

- Joe Biden

Checked YES in response a Human Rights Campaign questionnaire asking if the candidate "Supports civil unions for same-sex couples."

Supports extending federal rights and benefits to same-sex couples

Checked YES in response a Human Rights Campaign questionnaire asking if the candidate "Supports extending federal benefits, rights, privileges and responsibilities to same-sex couples and their children provided the partnership meets certain federal standards of commitment and mutuality of interest."

Joe Biden believes legal recognition should not be denied same-sex couples. He advocates for re-examining federal laws, including the tax code, to ensure our national laws are not unfair to same-sex couples, and that committed adults who are adopting are not discriminated against because of sexual orientation. He supports letting states determine how to recognize civil unions and define marriage.

- JoeBiden.com

As I find more issues and statements, I'll be sure to update the post.

(h/t OnTheIssues.org)

UPDATE 1: At 3AM on Saturday morning, the Obama Campaign myspace page changed its profile picture to this:


UPDATE 2:: At 3:30am, I received the official text message from the campaign:

Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden as our VP nominee. Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live 3pm ET on www.BarackObama.com. Spread the word!

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Biden, eh? I have to admit that I'm not seriously impressed. Better than Bayh, but definitely no Richardson, Wes Clark or even Hillary.

Oh Bil, I disagree. I've been closely watching his career since *at least* 1987, and Biden is a fantastic debater, a great campaigner and storyteller (you know, hale fellow, well met), extremely good on the issues, very knowledgable, passionate, very smart, and has an **unbeatable** life story.

Biden was my first choice for president in the 1988 election, and he was my first choice in the 2008 election. He's a blue collar Irish Catholic regular guy from Scranton, PA. I understand that some people call him the "third senator from PA.

He's a talented politician who knows his stuff, *and* is the guy that you'd proverbially want to have a beer with. And he's the one who coined the term about Guiliani that all of his sentences are composed of "a noun, a verb, and 9/11". You can't do better than that.

Thanks for being so quick with the info here, Waymon. Good stuff.

Thanks, Dana. I've been doing my homework on the veeps candidates for awhile now. I think it is important that we have as much info on our candidates as possible.

Yes, Waymon, thank you. I was going to say that I was impressed about how quickly and thoroughly you got this information out there. But then I saw Bil's comment, and got off on a rant!

Bil can be distracting that way. :)

There goes the Bayh post I had prepped!

I'm excited! OBAMA/BIDEN 08! He's a real firecracker and will show those bigot republicans whats-what!

Update: At 3AM on Saturday morning, the Obama Campaign myspace page changed its profile picture to a photo with Biden (see the update in the post)

Many thanks for getting this up so quickly!

As a historian by training, I noticed pretty quickly that Biden's most disappointing vote on LGBT rights was over a decade ago, back in 1996.

As folks in the gay rights community assess him as a candidate, I hope they'll notice the *progress* he's made on relationship recognition in the past twelve years. Way to go, Joe!

"Gay rights." "Same sex couples." Same sex marriage." "Sexual orientation." "Sexual orientation." "Sexual orientation." Am I seeing a not-so-pleasant familiar theme running through here yet again? Yes, this is such a wonderful moment for gays, lesbians and bisexuals to be cheering. But, there's no joy in Teeville. The "Might" T has been left out. Am I surprised?

(Oh yes. I did see "gender identity" mentioned once in this long article, but it didn't come from Joe Biden's lips.)

It's worth remembering that in the 1980's that liberal politicians who were supportive of gay rights, hardly ever used specific verbiage in "mixed" company. They were hot potatoes.

In fact, one of the primary tasks that the GLBT caucus had at the 1984 Democratic National Convention was to get podium speakers to *mention* gay rights. Our biggest target was the keynote speaker Mario Cuomo.

We negotiated with him and his staff furiously for days. Keep in mind that he did support gay rights, he was the governor of New York, and many of our caucus were from NY. We wanted him to say "gay and lesbian" (trans wasn't on the radar yet). The word back from him was "no way". So we said we would compromise and be satisfied if he would talk about "sexual orientation".

What did we get? Deep in the speech, he made a quick - very QUICK - reference to "all orientations".

Frankly, NO ONE knew what he was talking about. That verbiage simply didn't exist at that time. We were *waiting* and *listening* for our mention, and *we* almost missed it! After he said it, we looked at each other and said, was that it? We weren't even sure. But yeah, that was it. We joked that maybe "orientations" was referring to map-reading hikers instead of us. The great Mario Cuomo.

This is the long way of saying (I only thought to give the Cuomo example after I started writing this) that given the newness of the idea of including gender identity and expression in the GLBT lexicon, it's really to be expected that longtime pols haven't yet picked it up.

But are his heart and head in the right place? Hell, yeah.

Without raining on the parade and love fest, isn't Biden the gentleman who dropped out of a campaign some years ago because he was plagarising his speeches?

I would think that the swift boaters will keep all dem foibles in the public eye, from here to november.

Actually, you could say that Biden was the first candidate who was Swiftboated. He didn't drop out because he plagarized; he was hounded out.

He had a set stump speech, and each time he delivered it, he credited Neil Kinnock. However, one time he missed doing that. Twenty-one years ago. That's misspeaking, not plagarism. If he repeatedly credited kinnock, clearly he wasn't trying to pass off those words as his own.

Thank you Waymon for this info and for getting it up so quickly.

I can't say that I'm particularly excited about Biden - but I wasn't really expecting the VP pick to be "exciting". Based on what I've read, the info you provided and the comments from Rory and others - I think Biden was a good pick. However, I think just about all of the finalists were basically "safe" picks.

Let's see if this choice pays off...

Thanks Waymon for this quick research. I am particularly impressed with Biden, by the fact that he takes the Amtrak back home every night to Wilmington (an 80 min ride), and does not own a second home in DC! I am glad to know that he voted for PEPFAR and supporter of UAFA.

But do we think 2 northern nominations for Democratic ticket will fair well in the South and in the West?

It does seem that for Biden - transgenders are the queers whose name he dare not speak.

In his answers to the logo debate questionnaire - he specifically avoids any mention of gender identity or transgender people - even when asked specifically about this in the enda question or when referring to the hate crimes act he endorsed.

Human Rights Campaign

1. Senator Biden opposes employment discrimination of any kind – including race, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation. He has consistently supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit employment discrimination on basis of sexual orientation.

2. Senator Biden is a co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 and has consistently supported expanding federal hate crimes to include offenses based on gender, sexual orientation or disability.

One hopes he'll learn from the top of the ticket to be less squeamish about us. Come on Joe - you can say it! Don't be such a wuss - it's just another group of people who are asking for the same rights everyone else has - or should have.

That said - I was surprised how strongly he was supported by the Hillary supporters in my office. There may be a connection there that I hadn't noticed.

Biden's a safe pick and a good decision. The "plagiarism" thing was 20 years ago, and minor. He's a party insider, the right age and experience, a friend of the Clinton's, has good connections everywhere, is a fine debater, and may be able to help Obama acquire the sharp edge he's going to need to defeat McCain and defend against the attacks to follow. It shows me that Obama intends to do what it takes to win, which is something John Kerry never exhibited.

No, Biden's never uttered the T word. But no Republicans that will be on the ticket this fall have ever uttered it as anything but an expletive. All objections will go out the window when we all see what kind of hack McCain is forced to pick by the Republican hierarchy.

reaction to Biden has been lukewarm here at the rules committee. There was a cheer for Delaware's delegation, but that was about it.

I know that Biden isn't the most exciting choice. That's why I thought Hillary would be a better pick, or Jim Webb.

But of the people who were actually on the short list, he is clearly the best. As I've said before, he was my first choice for president.

And watching the Springfield speeches, I was reminded of how powerful his life story is, and how compelling he is as a politician. I think the convention will be appropriately excited after they hear him speak.

I just heard a Republican talking head say that all that Biden's ever done is being on the public dole since he was 29 years old.


That's the difference between Dems and Repubs, Rory. Democrats work in the public service. Republicans leech off the public trough while in office and give their cron. Democrats govern effectively and are proud to do so. Republicans claim they hate government, but actually enjoy being dictators.

How foolish of me not to realize!

McCain has leached for far longer and violated the UCMJ while he did so. No wonder he has no problem keeping troops in Iraq for a hundred years when he treated the military and its' obligations with such contempt while serving himself.