He's said for years that LGBT equality is the "civil rights issue of our time" – and now, Joe Biden has promised to make LGBTQ rights his number-one legislative priority if he's elected as president of the United States.
The former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate (pictured) made it clear he would make The Equality Act, a controversial piece of legislation recently passed by the U.S. House, his top legislative priority if elected. He also referred to the shift in values – cultural, economic, and otherwise – over the last decade, pointing to the fact that now major corporations boycott states that push back against legislation that awards special "rights" to the LGBTQ+ community.
"Just like with racial justice and women's rights, we're seeing pushback with all the progress we've made towards equality – progress you've worked so hard for decades on," Biden told an approving audience over the weekend at an annual Human Rights Campaign dinner in Ohio. "My God, you've already changed the environment in such a fundamental way."
Peter Sprigg is senior fellow for policy studies for the Family Research Council. Referring to Biden's remarks, Sprigg says it's not an accurate comparison to equate LGBT rights to past civil rights movements by, for example, the African-American community.
"It should be an offensive [comparison] to African Americans because there is a fundamental difference between the nature of sexual orientation or gender identity, as we term them in society today, and the nature of a person's race," he explains.
"Race is a characteristic that is clearly, obviously, indisputably, inborn, involuntary, immutable, innocuous – meaning it does no harm to anyone. And in the Constitution of the United States, none of those criteria apply to the choice to engage in homosexual conduct, or the choice to present yourself as the opposite of your biological sex.
"So [when] we're dealing with … both sexual orientation and gender identity, you're dealing with sort of a complex mix of feelings behaviors and self-identification – but what you're not dealing with is some innate characteristic like a person's race."
Sprigg went on to say that LGBT lifestyles have negative health consequences. He also didn't rule out that Biden was trying to score political points at a time when some liberal voters view him as a moderate.
"Having listened to this entire speech and some other things he said, I think this effort, this particular speech, was clearly an effort to shore up his left flank," says the FRC senior fellow. "It was an effort to prove his liberal credentials to a very liberal audience."
The Human Rights Campaign, Sprigg notes, is one of the more liberal special-interest groups represented by the Democratic Party.
"So on the one hand I think [Biden] promotes this idea of being moderate in order to give people the idea that maybe he's more electable, maybe has more appeal to a general audience – but at the same time he realizes within the Democratic Party and within the Democratic primaries he has to demonstrate that he has these liberal credentials. And that's what I think he was trying to do with this particular speech."
But Sprigg says there's "nothing particularly moderate" about the stance Biden has taken – and argues that, in fact, anyone who listens to the entire speech "will see how kind of radical he is."
Shawn Copeland, HRC's Ohio director, says his organization has identified 1.8 million "equality voters," including 400,000 LGBTQ citizens, their family members, friends, or other allies in his state. Sprigg contends that's not enough to carry Ohio.
"In the 2016 election, President Trump [in Ohio] got 2.84 million votes to Hillary Clinton's 2.4 million," he explains. "This is part of the problem for the Democratic Party [in] appealing to the LGBT movement: you're talking about a tiny minority of the population, well under fivw percent of the American population who actually is part of the LGBT community, as they call it. And even if you include their family members and so forth – which is an effort to make those numbers seem larger – we're still not talking about enough to win a general election."
Sprigg made his comments Monday on "Washington Watch with Tony Perkins," a syndicated radio program.
In the photo above, former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during the Human Rights Campaign Columbus, Ohio Dinner at Ohio State University, Saturday, June 1, 2019. (Associated Press)