Biden Seems Good on Gay Issues

Timothy Kincaid

August 23rd, 2008

In the swirl of speculation leading up to the announcement of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s running mate, several names were tossed about. They ranged from the those we cannot call a friend (Chet Edwards of Texas was one of a handfull of Democrats to support the federal anti-gay marriage amendment) to those who have long been allies of the gay community.

His selection, Joe Biden, has a mostly favorable history when it comes to gay issues. From On The Issues

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

Rated 78% by the HRC, indicating a pro-gay-rights stance.

Biden scores 78% by the HRC on gay rights interprets the 2005-2006 HRC scores as follows:

0% – 20%: opposes gay rights (approx. 207 members)
20% – 70%: mixed record on gay rights (approx. 84 members)
70%-100%: supports gay rights (approx. 177 members)

About the HRC (from their website,

The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of more than 700,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where GLBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

Ever since its founding in 1980, HRC has led the way in promoting fairness for GLBT Americans. HRC is a bipartisan organization that works to advance equality based on sexual orientation and gender expression and identity.

Source: HRC website 06n-HRC on Dec 31, 2006

Stefano A

August 23rd, 2008

I think I’m neutral on Biden being his running mate. However, the thing that annoys me about both Obama and Biden are their comments about same-sex marriage.

But I don’t think the government can dictate the definition of marriage to religious institutions.

No one is asking anyone to DICTATE to religious institutions WHOM they offer the religious sacrament of marriage to.

The government has not, does not, and is not being asked to bestow any form of religious meaning on marriage.

I couldn’t give a flying **** what their personal religious beliefs are. Those should have no bearing on CIVIL secular policies.

Stefano A

August 23rd, 2008

To be more clear, what annoys me is how politicians seem to be incapable of pointing out that simple distinction in any way other than to draw this arbitrary line between “marriage” and “civil union”. Enough with the manipulative symantics already….

Jason D

August 24th, 2008

I think I’m neutral on Biden being his running mate. However, the thing that annoys me about both Obama and Biden are their comments about same-sex marriage.

But I don’t think the government can dictate the definition of marriage to religious institutions.

No one is asking anyone to DICTATE to religious institutions WHOM they offer the religious sacrament of marriage to.

Stefano, I get your point, but here’s how I see it. Obama, Biden, and many other Dems all seem to be either begrudgingly or cautiously recognizing that gay marriage is the right thing to do.
Also, the anti-gay folks talk endlessly of faith and how letting gay folks get married is forcing their church to go against it’s own beliefs, yadda, yadda, ad nauseum.

What Biden, et all are doing is making the distinction between religious marriage and the actual civil marriage contract. If you’ve noticed in the polls, while many people are against gay marriage, many of those same people are against banning it with a constitutional amendment. In essence, people are not ready to say “yes” but recognize that it’s wrong to say “never”.
I think pointing out the religious vs. civil difference is a good message. I feel like the person saying that “gets me” on a certain level they’re just not ready to say “yes”. I also think that repeating that message of distinction may get those on the fence to think about it more.

The more cynical side, of course, says that Biden, etc’s, talk of distinction is merely pandering. It’s a way of saying yes to both sides, of talking out of both sides of your mouth.

Pepe Johnson

August 25th, 2008

I’ve given a lot of thought to this whole marriage debate, especially over the last month or so.

Frankly, I see marriage as a religious sacrament or ordinance (depending on your denomination) and given that our civil laws should not dictate religious beliefs, I believe it’s time for the government to get out of marriage altogether. The government needs to stay out of the personal lives as much as possible – for gay people and straight people alike.

That said, getting government out of marriage isn’t an easy proposition. Numerous laws and regulations take marriage into consideration, so perhaps we should start with those. For example, I’d eliminate the ability to file joint tax returns. Birth certificates could be redesigned with blanks for the “Parents’ Names” and not list “Mother” and “Father” separately.

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