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Biden Emphasizes Anti-Discrimination Measures During Columbus Visit

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Human Rights Campaign dinner at Ohio State University, Saturday, June 1, 2019, in Columbus.
Paul Vernon
/
AP
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Human Rights Campaign dinner at Ohio State University, Saturday, June 1, 2019, in Columbus.

Former Vice President Joe Biden addressed more than 700 people decked out in ball gowns and tuxedos Saturday at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Columbus Dinner and said the Equality Act would be his top legislative priority if elected president. 

The LGBTQ civil rights organization believes President Trump’s administration has been disastrous for their community, and after a strong showing in the midterms, the group is intent on ousting the president in 2020.

“You’ve bent the moral arc in this nation toward justice,” Biden told attendees. “And thanks to you, our children and grandchildren are growing up in a world that’s far more just, far more open-minded, far more humane.”

However Biden insisted their fight is far from done, and cast his presidential bid as a means to secure those gains.

“So much is at stake.” he said, “And we have to come together — you’re already there — to finish this work because it is the civil rights issue of our time.”

In addition to fighting Trump’s reelection, the HRC is advocating for the Equality Act.  The measure, which passed the democratically controlled House of Representatives last month, would extend protections in housing, employment and public accommodations to the LGBT community.

HRC President Chad Griffin called that “a major milestone for equality.”

“We’re going to make damn sure that we turn out the more than 10 million LGBTQ voters and millions more allies to elect a pro-equality president who will sign the equality act into law,” Griffin said to loud applause.

Biden committed to passing the legislation if he wins the presidency.

“I’m sure I’m no different than anyone else, but I promise you if I’m elected president that’ll be the first thing I ask to be done,” Biden said.

Biden nodded to local LGBT anti-discrimination provisions before arguing in favor of a statewide measure called the Ohio Fairness Act. The proposal has been introduced regularly in the Ohio General Assembly since 2008 but hasn’t been able to gain approval.

More recently the Ohio Chamber of Commerce offered its support—a point Biden was quick to highlight.

“It’s not only morally sound policy, from that standpoint, it’s also smart economics.  Look at what the chamber is doing. Look at what the business community is doing,” he said. “Guess what, they figured it out—they got it.”

Biden is one of two dozen major candidates who have declared their candidacy for the Democratic nomination. HRC hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate yet.

Even before entering the field, Biden was seen as a potential frontrunner, and his polling so far has been favorable. But as a long-serving senator and former Vice President, Biden enjoys greater name recognition than most of the field.