Vice President Joseph Biden reflected on the death of Aimee Stephens and renewed his commitment to LGBTQ rights in a virtual fundraiser this week, according to a pool report of the event.
Biden made the remarks Wednesday during a Zoom fundraiser, which was co-hosted by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), in response to a question by Seattle-based filmmaker Vlada Knowlton.
Knowlton, the mother of three children, one of whom is transgender, asked Biden what he would do to protect transgender people from “unjust attacks” and discrimination.
In response, Biden mentioned the death of Stephens, the Michigan funeral home director fired for being transgender in 2013 and the center of a major case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court on transgender rights.
Biden said he was supposed to call Stephens this week, but got the news from an aide she had passed away before having the chance to call.
“I was supposed to call her. I had her picture and her bio on my desk, I was supposed to call her. I’m looking over at Annie, I guess it was yesterday at 2:00 and Annie came in me in with tears in her eyes and said they passed away, passed away,” Biden said, referring to Annie Tomasini, his traveling chief of staff.
The decision in the Stephens case, which could come any day, will determine whether anti-trans discrimination is sex discrimination, therefore illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Biden also recommitted himself to transgender rights, saying as president he’d end the practice of conversion therapy, which he called “sick,” pass the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination through Congress and undo President Trump’s transgender military ban.
In addition, Biden said individuals on IDs should be able to select a third-gender option when they register to vote.
“You ought to be able to just put X on sex, and be able to — you don’t have to explain a damn thing,” Biden said. “If you’re a registered person in that place, you should be able to vote.”
Knowlton told the Washington Blade on Friday via Twitter message she was “satisfied with his answer.”
“He was clearly passionate about the topic of protecting transgender people’s human and civil rights and he was upset over the passing of Aimee Stephens,” Knowlton said. “I thought he was very genuine when he promised to help pass and to sign the Equality Act as well as to do everything in his power to bring back anti-discrimination protections and prosecute hate crimes.”
According to the Biden campaign, 115 people attended the virtual event via Zoom, which was billed as a “Northwest Virtual Reception” and included guests mostly from the northwest region of the country. In addition to Booker, Joe Schocken, president of Broadmark Capital, and his wife Judy Schocken, were event co-hosts.