50 years after Selma, Joe Biden draws parallels between LGBT rights, civil rights

Vice President Joe Biden addresses the Human Rights Campaign Spring Equity Convention in Washington, Friday, March 6, 2015. Biden said the same human rights that African Americans fought for in Selma, Alabama, are at stake for LGBT rights activists today. Cliff Owen, AP

Vice President Joe Biden addresses the Human Rights Campaign Spring Equity Convention in Washington, Friday, March 6, 2015. Biden said the same human rights that African Americans fought for in Selma, Alabama, are at stake for LGBT rights activists today.Cliff Owen, AP

Vice President Joe Biden addresses the Human Rights Campaign Spring Equity Convention in Washington, Friday, March 6, 2015. Biden said the same human rights that African Americans fought for in Selma, Alabama, are at stake for LGBT rights activists today.

WASHINGTON — LGBT Americans are fighting for the same rights to equality that African Americans fought for decades ago, Vice President Joe Biden said Friday, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the historic march in Selma, Alabama.

An early supporter of same-sex marriage, Biden sought to draw parallels between the LGBT rights and civil rights movements as he addressed a summit of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT rights group.

Just as he could never have imagined serving alongside a black president, Biden said, he never anticipated seeing a time when gays would serve in the military openly, the Supreme Court would strike down anti-sodomy laws and a majority of U.S. states would legalize same-sex marriage.

“Selma and Stonewall were basically the same movement,” Biden said, invoking the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots in New York that marked the symbolic start of the modern gay rights movement.

Biden’s remarks come the day before President Barack Obama and surviving marchers were to gather at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to commemorate half a decade since white police officers beat civil rights protesters who were fighting segregation in the South. Reflecting on the number of southern states where gay marriage is still banned, Biden said the next step for activists is to help bring gay rights to the South.

Activists responded with fervent applause when he recalled announcing his own support for gay marriage during a 2012 television interview, putting pressure on Obama, who followed suit a few months later. “I told the president I wasn’t going to change my brand,” Biden said with a grin.

Presidential politics also popped up at the summit, where a brief mention of presumptive 2016 candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton drew a warm reaction and cheers.

In his speech, Biden – another possible 2016 contender – called out potential Republican candidate Ben Carson for saying that homosexuality was a choice and citing sexual activity in prisons as evidence.

“Every ridiculous assertion from Dr. Carson on, I mean, ridiculous,” Biden said of the former neurosurgeon. He added, “I mean, Jesus, God.”

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