Vice President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address Saturday night at the Human Rights Campaign’s Los Angeles gala, reaffirming the Obama administration’s support for LGBT rights and calling on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Throughout his 28-minute speech, Biden elicited several standing ovations from an audience of more than 1,000 LGBT activists, Hollywood celebrities and political allies.
The vice president was introduced by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, after which he told the crowd at the JW Marriott hotel in downtown L.A. that, in the struggle for LGBT rights, “all of you spoke out and stepped up and came forward.”
“You came out and you marched. You demanded to be recognized, demanded your constitutional rights, demanded a basic American dream. You demanded respect,” he said. “And because of what all of you have done, my granddaughter is going to grow up in a better country, a more just country.”
Referring to his appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in May 2012, in which he made news by saying he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage, Biden on Saturday said that he “told the president, when he asked me to be vice president, two things: I wasn’t going to wear any funny hats, and I wasn’t changing my brand. There’s no way. I’m too old, man.”
“How could you remain silent anymore?” Biden asked, noting that, after the groundbreaking interview, polling data indicated that “an absolute majority of the American people agreed with what I said.”
Later in his remarks, he called on Congress to pass ENDA, the legislation that would make it illegal for employers with at least 15 employees to discriminate in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“If you think about it, it’s outrageous we’re even debating this subject,” the vice president said. He added: “It’s almost beyond belief that today, in 2014, I could say to you, as your employee in so many states, you’re fired because of who you love. … It is bizarre. … I don’t even think most Americans even know that employers can do that.”