Behind the RayBans and grandad-like appearance of President-elect Joe Biden, lies a politician with decades of his life spent in the public eye. As a result, we have a wealth of history from which to judge his views and actions over time, particularly on the topic of LGBTQ+ rights.
Biden began his career in 1979 and in his early years fell quite short of being supportive of LGBTQ+ rights, claiming that his “gut reaction is that they [homosexuals] are security risks”. He then later voted in favour of DOMA, a piece of legislation defining marriage as being between a man and a woman which has since been seen as one of the biggest setbacks for LGBTQ+ rights in America.
However, let’s not pretend Biden is just as bad as his competitor. Based on Biden’s early history alone, an argument could be made for him being the lesser of two evils, but based on Biden’s more recent progressive demeanour it is clear that Biden could even be a very positive force for gay rights.
Where the Trump Administration championed a policy that banned transgender people from serving in the military, and where Pence, in particular, has refused to oppose conversion therapy, Biden was partly responsible for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and has been credited as one of the main driving forces behind the Obama Administration’s push for marriage equality. Biden’s history may be very problematic, but he’s had a very clear and well-documented turnaround.
In 2012, Biden became the most high-ranking democrat to support gay marriage, doing so before Obama who is generally viewed to have been very strong on gay rights. In a similar show of support for the LGBTQ+ community, it was when Biden was Vice President that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, and has since been very vocal about how strongly he feels about this repeal and believes that similar legislation against trans people serving in the military should be dropped.
Despite any history of Biden’s current support or previous contempt for LGBTQ+ rights, what really matters the most is what he does while in office. Looking at his current plans for this topic, Biden aims to tackle discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, make it easier for trans people to change gender markers on official paperwork, and reinstate key legislation scrapped by Trump. One of the points that seem to stand out the most is a plan to end violence against trans women of colour- 2019 alone saw 27 gender non-conforming women murdered, with this number likely being much higher due to misreporting.
The main things that are looking at being reinstated are trans students’ access to the correct bathrooms or changing rooms at school, protections against discrimination in the workplace, trans people’s right to serve in the military, and protection for homeless trans people seeking shelter. All of these are extremely important pieces of legislation that will make life in America much safer for LGBTQ+ people which have been scrapped by Trump and could be brought back by Biden- undoubtedly this is a win regardless of Biden’s personal history.
Biden may have a questionable history on LGBTQ+ rights, but there is a proven trend in recent years of him having reversed his earlier positions on gay rights to become perhaps one of the most vocal allies in the highest level of American politics, and it is this proven record that could be the needed remedy to the intolerance of the Trump administration.