January 20, 2016 at 4:28 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Biden: No ‘cultural justification’ for anti-LGBT discrimination

Joe Biden, Human Rights Campaign, HRC, gay news, Washington Blade, National Dinner

Vice President Biden on Jan. 20, 2016, spoke passionately in support of LGBT rights at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Vice President Biden on Wednesday spoke passionately in support of LGBT rights during a roundtable at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

“LGBT people face violence, harassment, unequal treatment, mistreatment by cops, denial of health care, isolation — always in the name of culture,” said Biden as the Huffington Post reported. “I’ve had it up to here with culture. I really mean it.”

The Human Rights Campaign organized the roundtable with Microsoft and SkyBridge Capital that coincided with the first day of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. HRC President Chad Griffin, Coca Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent and Paul E. Singer Family Office Director Annie Dickerson were among the business executives from around the world who were in attendance.

The roundtable took place roughly two months after HRC released its annual Corporate Equality Index.

Google and Marriott International are among the 407 companies that received a perfect 100 score. The 2016 Corporate Equality Index for the first time ranks corporations on whether their anti-LGBT discrimination policies apply to employees outside the U.S.

Vice president had ‘run ins’ with heads of state

A video of the Biden’s remarks the Huffington Post posted online shows the vice president striking the table with his palms as he spoke during the roundtable.

“Culture never justifies rank, raw, discrimination or violation of human rights,” said Biden. “There is no cultural justification. None. None. None.”

Biden also noted consensual same-sex sexual acts remain criminalized in more than 70 countries.

“I have had some run ins with at least four heads of state already on this, making it absolutely clear to their countries where we were and what we expected of them,” said Biden.

Biden did not name the heads of state with whom he said he spoke.

“Vice President Biden is a tremendous ally in the fight for LGBT equality in the United States, and his participation in today’s important gathering was further proof of his steadfast commitment to safeguarding the rights of LGBT people abroad,” said Griffin in a statement. “LGBT people should have a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families no matter where they live, and leaders of the world’s foremost companies can and should provide equal treatment and protections for their LGBT employees.”

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner on Wednesday welcomed Biden’s comments.

“As we say many times we believe LGBTI rights are human rights,” Toner told the Washington Blade during his daily press briefing. “It’s a fundamental core part of our human rights programs or initiatives around the world. It’s important to us as we move forward that we protect the rights of all people around the world and advocate.”

The State Department in a Jan. 15 statement said Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum later this week before traveling to Saudi Arabia. He is expected to “consult with world leaders from government, business and civil society” while in Davos.

Reporters on Wednesday pressed Toner as to whether Kerry has specifically raised LGBT rights with his counterparts from Russia, Iran and other countries during their meetings.

“I can certainly say he raises human rights, LGBTI rights, as needed with leaders around the world,” said Toner. “It’s needed in a lot of countries.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

1 Comment
  • Vice President Joe Biden did open the proverbal can of worms that got the ball rolling for human rights regarding President Obama’s evolution, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Marriage Equality in America. Thanks Joe from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you do for the LGBT community every day and around the world. You are our champion. Because of you I was able to merry my husband last March 4th, 30 years after we met.

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