WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden is throwing his unequivocal support behind letting transgender people serve openly in the U.S. military, as the Obama administration considers whether and when to lift the longstanding ban.
Biden’s declaration at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual dinner Saturday goes further than anything the Obama administration has said before, evoking memories of when Biden outpaced President Barack Obama in endorsing gay marriage. Although the White House says Obama supports a Pentagon review aimed at ending the transgender ban, neither Obama nor the military has said definitively that the policy will be changed.
“No longer is there any question transgender people are able to serve in the United States military,” Biden told a crowd of 3,000 activists at the gay rights advocacy group’s star-studded gala.
Biden, who is considering running for president, declared transgender rights to be “the civil rights issue of our time” as he delivered the keynote speech, just hours after Hillary Rodham Clinton — his top rival if he enters the race — gave a rousing address elevating LGBT rights as a main pillar of her 2016 bid. Biden said gays and lesbians shouldn’t fear “those shrill voices” trying to undo gay marriage and other advances because Americans “have moved so far beyond them and their appeals to prejudice and fear and homophobia.”
“There’s homophobes still left — most of them are running for president,” Biden said, in a playful yet cutting jab at the Republican presidential candidates.