June 2, 2019 at 9:23 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Biden says Equality Act will be No. 1 priority as president
Joseph Biden said the Equality Act will be his No. 1 priority as president. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

On the first day of Pride month, Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden declared on Saturday night the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBT discrimination would be his No. 1 priority if elected to the White House.

Speaking before 730 attendees at a Human Rights Campaign dinner in Columbus, Ohio, Biden said passage of the Equality Act would “send a message around the world” the United States supports LGBT rights.

“I promise you if I’m elected president that’ll be the first thing I’ll ask be noted,” Biden said.

As Biden noted, the U.S. House approved the Equality Act last month on a bipartisan basis with a united Democratic caucus and eight Republican lawmakers. But Biden said to finish the job “we need to elect a Democratic Senate” to replace the Republican majority chamber, where passage of the LGBT bill is highly unlikely.

Biden’s 30-minute speech hit on a range topics pertaining to LGBT issues. Although Biden took Trump administration, the 2020 hopeful never mentioned any of this rivals for the Democratic nomination.

Criticizing President Trump for creating “literally a bully pulpit” at the White House, Biden faulted him for his reaction to the white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, turning away asylum seekers and appointing a vice president who “uses religious freedom an excuse to license discrimination.”

“It’s wrong and it is immoral what they’re doing,” Biden said.

In terms of LGBT issues, Biden listed the anti-LGBT attacks from the Trump administration that have come just within the past two weeks leading to Pride month. The former vice president referred to them as “latest in a long list of moves targeting the sick, the homeless, children.”

Recent news items include a proposed rule gutting transgender protections at homeless shelters, a proposal seeking to abolish transgender non-discrimination protections in health care and a report the administration is poised to issue a rule allowing adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

“This is beyond the scope of anything remotely from what we’ve seen before,” Biden said.

Invoking the five known transgender black women who were killed in 2019 alone, Biden said of anti-trans violence, “It must, it must, it must end.”

“The fastest way to end it is to end the Trump administration,” Biden added.

Biden, however, concluded with speech with a note of optimism, asserting the nation will change after Trump leaves the White House.

“Notwithstanding it all, I remain optimistic because I believe in who we are as a country,” Biden said.

Watch the full speech here:

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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