Metro Weekly

Joe Biden calls conversion therapy ‘sick,’ emphasizes importance of Equality Act

During a virtual fundraiser, Biden reiterated support for transgender rights and noted the recent death of Aimee Stephens

joe biden, lgbtq, equality, conversion therapy

Former Vice President Joe Biden — Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Former Vice President Joe Biden branded the harmful practice of conversion therapy “sick” during a virtual fundraiser last week.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, criticized the debunked practice, which seeks to forcibly change an LGBTQ person’s sexuality or gender identity through means such as talk therapy or more extreme methods such as aversion or electroshock therapy.

During the fundraiser, which was hosted by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) on Zoom, Biden also reiterated his support for transgender rights, as well as pledging his support for passing the Equality Act should he win the presidency in November, the Advocate reports.

Biden released his LGBTQ equality plan in March, which featured seven key policy areas the former Vice President would focus on should he reach the Oval Office. It included supporting LGBTQ youth, ending the epidemic of violence against transgender women of color, and protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.

The plan also took a swipe at the anti-LGBTQ actions of the Trump administration, accusing Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence of having “given hate against LGBTQ+ individuals safe harbor and rolled back critical protections for the LGBTQ+ community.”

“Hate and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people started long before Trump and Pence took office,” Biden’s plan states. “Defeating them will not solve the problem, but it is an essential first step in order to resume our march toward equality.”

During the fundraising call, Biden reiterated his support for the Equality Act, opposed by Trump, which would enshrine protections for LGBTQ people in federal law. He also committed to supporting a ban on conversion therapy, calling it “sick.”

Last year, U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu and Sens. Booker and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act to Congress, which, if passed, would classify advertising and providing conversion therapy as a fraudulent practice.

Biden also addressed transgender issues during the fundraising call, including committing to rolling back the Trump administration’s restrictions on transgender people serving openly in the military.

The former Vice President also supported allowing gender-neutral voter registration, saying, “You ought to be able to just put X on sex…you don’t have to explain a damn thing. If you’re a registered person in that place, you should be able to vote.”

Vlada Knowlton, an attendee on the call and mother of a transgender child, referenced the recent death of Aimee Stephens, the transgender woman at the center of a Supreme Court case that could determine whether the Civil Rights Act protects against anti-trans discrimination.

Biden told Knowlton that he was supposed to speak to Stephens on May 12, the day of her death.

“I was supposed to call her. I had her picture and her bio on my desk; I was supposed to call her,” Biden said. “I’m looking over at [traveling chief of staff] Annie [Tomasini], I guess it was yesterday at 2 o’clock, and Annie came in…with tears in her eyes and said they passed away, passed away.”

Biden was endorsed by the National Center for Transgender Equality earlier this month, with the advocacy organization calling him “the advocate and president we need at this consequential moment.”

Biden was also endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization.

“Vice President Joe Biden is the leader our community and our country need at this moment,” HRC President Alphonso David said earlier this month. “His dedication to advancing LGBTQ equality, even when it was unpopular to do so, has pushed our country and our movement forward.”

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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