Vice President Joe Biden recalls turning the tide on LGBTQ rights in the ’70s

Vice President Joe Biden spoke today in Indianapolis, where several LGBTQ groups and others are commemorating the 52nd anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots that sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Adopting a language from #BecauseIts2018, the Vice President issued a call for LGBTQ people around the country to “come out of the shadows” and become the “full force of American life.”

Biden said his greatest regret is that “we didn’t have it as good as we should” for LGBTQ people in the ’70s. As an introduction to the President’s Task Force on Combating AIDS in the 1980s, he asked gay people, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, and others of those identities “to be a part of the White House, a part of the administration.”

“We fought hard and it didn’t work,” Biden said of the time period, in part due to institutionalized homophobia within the White House, Congress, and other organizations. He added that in part because of the “self-imposed” damage caused by that homophobia, many LGBTQ people went into hiding “for generations.” The Vice President also credited some of the progress the LGBTQ community has made since then in part to people who quietly fought for their rights during that time. Biden said that those people, “continued to stand up for a way of life that was never fully accepted by society.” In his statements, he urged LGBTQ people to “transcend fear, to reject shame and to seek a better life for ourselves.”

The Vice President also recalled last year’s deadly spate of transgender murders across the country, in particular the cases of the two Georgia women Vashti McKenzie-Anderson and Beulah Bradford, who were both murdered shortly after turning 21. He recounted the Gresham Street murders in St. Louis, which began in 2008. These murders led to the passage of the National Transgender Discrimination Act.

“These murders broke the public conscience,” he said. “They made Americans realize that trans people deserved to be treated like human beings and not murderers.” Biden urged LGBTQ people to be proud and continue to stand up for their rights.

“Today, on Valentine’s Day, let’s speak up, let’s fight back, and let’s keep fighting,” he said.

Watch the Vice President speak below.

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