Metro Weekly

Joe Biden urges Americans to defend LGBTQ rights abroad

Former vice president says culture and religion cannot be used as excuses for persecuting LGBTQ people

Vice President Joe Biden, Credit: Kenton / Flickr

Former Vice President Joe Biden is calling on the United States to speak out against LGBTQ human rights abuses and defend advances in equality for LGBTQ people abroad.

In an op-ed published in The Washington Post, Biden draws a line in the sand, condemning violence directed against members of the LGBTQ community, throwing down a challenge to religious conservatives by writing: “Any person of conscience, regardless of their religious or partisan beliefs, should be able to agree: Violence against any person, in any form, is intolerable. No one should be killed, tortured, assaulted or harassed because of who they are.”

In his op-ed, which was published one day ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on May 17, Biden details various anti-gay actions taken by governments against their LGBTQ citizens, including Syria, Iraq, Uganda, Tanzania, and Russia, with specific emphasis on reports of anti-gay persecution out of Chechnya. He also condemns “corrective rape,” which he describes as “an extreme form of conversion therapy to try to turn women straight.”

Biden also throws down the gauntlet at those who would attempt to use religious beliefs to justify such actions.

“Many times, this kind of discrimination, harassment and violence is justified in the name of ‘culture.’ This offensive argument ignores the fundamental truth that LGBT rights are human rights,” he writes. “Prejudice is prejudice; inhumanity is inhumanity. Using religion or culture to license discrimination and demonizing LGBT individuals to score political points are no more justifiable around the world than they are here at home.”

Most importantly, Biden argues, the United States must be a leader in condemning such human rights violations and using its power to influence other nations to adopt less hostile laws or policies. And he calls on governments and the business community to exercise their own clout by speaking out on behalf of LGBTQ equality. 

“Governments, including ours, can wield the levers of diplomacy, defense and foreign aid to promote and protect the human rights of all people,” he writes. “Business leaders, especially those at the helm of multinational companies with a footprint in countries hostile to LGBT equality, can change the terms of the debate by highlighting the economic costs of discrimination.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com