VP Joe Biden: LGBT community ‘freed straight people’ to give our support

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Vice-President Joe Biden has praised the LGBT community for its work on equal rights, saying that in recent years the movement has “freed” straight allies to show their support.

He said: “I get this credit from the LGBT community for moving things along, but the credit really goes to the community.

“I didn’t free the LGBT community. What you all did, what they did, was free every straight woman and straight man in this country. They freed us.”

He was speaking at Netroots Nation, a yearly convention for progressive political activists in the United States. This year’s conference was held in Detroit, Michigan.

Introducing Vice-President Biden to the stage, Arshad Hasan, executive director of ProgressNow and a board member for Netroots Nation, praised the VP’s early support for same-sex marriage.

He said: “The history books will write down that the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality was our president, Barack Obama… But those of us who hold marriage equality near and dear to our hearts and our homes, we know that Joe Biden spoke first. ”

Hasan was referring to an incident whereby the Vice President announced his public support for same-sex marriage in an interview with ‘Meet the Press’ in early May 2012. This predated the support of President Obama, who had until then refused to state his position as anything other than “evolving”.

Although political commentators have suggested that Vice-President Biden’s support had forced the President to declare his own support earlier than planned, he brushed off the praise.

He said: “I want you to know, to set the record straight, my comments on ‘Meet the Press’ were not planned, but what was planned and understood was when I get asked a direct question, I give a direct answer.

“I came out of the civil rights moment and there’s no way in God’s green Earth that I could sit there and be asked a question about the civil-rights issue of our day and remain silent. It would have made it a lie of who I am.”

He told the audience, “I know the president fully agreed with me” on same-sex marriage, but explained that there were “tactical differences possibly within the White House as to how and when” President Obama would announce his support.

Some political commentators have suggested that if Vice-President Biden makes a bid to be a presidential candidate in the next election, his early support for same-sex marriage may give him a slight advantage over Hillary Clinton, also widely tipped to run. Clinton did not publicly support same-sex marriage until early 2013, after she stepped down as Secretary of State.