November 20, 1942– In 1972, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. became the fifth-youngest Senator in USA history, and he went on to be Delaware’s longest-serving senator. He is also just about the best friend Gay People have ever had who has held a major Executive Branch office. His Presidential campaign in 2008 never quite gained the needed traction, but that upstart Democratic nominee Barack Obama selected him as his running mate.
Just as Biden’s political career was really beginning, he was dealt a devastating tragedy. A week before Christmas in 1972, Biden’s wife and his three children were involved in a dreadful automobile accident while shopping for a Christmas tree. It took the life of the young wife and his daughter, and severely injured both of his sons, Beau and Hunter. Biden was inconsolable, even suicidal. Biden:
“I began to understand how despair led people to just cash in; how suicide wasn’t just an option but a rational option. I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry.”
With encouragement and support of his family, Biden decided to honor his commitment to the people of Delaware as their Senator. He skipped his swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol and took the oath of office from his sons’ hospital room. He wanted to spend time with his boys, so Biden continued to live in Wilmington, commuting to and from Washington DC each day by Amtrak train, something he did all the time he served in the Senate.
Biden married a second time in 1977, to Jill Jacobs, an educator. The couple had daughter, Ashley, born in 1981.
Spring of 2015, Biden suffered another devastating loss when his handsome son Beau, Attorney General of Delaware and a Major in the Delaware Army National Guard, was taken by brain cancer. He was just 46 years old and I think, would probably become a future President of The United State. Biden:
“Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known.”
I had only recently been declared in remission after my own cancer battle and I cried a bucket full of tears with the news of Beau Biden’s passing. Following this tragedy, I had still hoped Biden might make another try at running for the Presidency. But, I was mostly relieved that he put an end to the speculation a year ago. In the White House Rose Garden with his wife and President Obama by his side, Biden made his announcement:
“As my family and I have worked through the grieving process, I’ve said all along what I’ve said time and again to others, that it may very well be that the process by the time we get through it closes the window. I’ve concluded it has closed. While I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent. I intend to speak out clearly and forcefully, to influence as much as I can where we stand as a party and where we need to go as a nation.”
Beau Biden had asked him to consider a third try for the White House, but Biden refused to promise his son, but he promised to ask his aides to explore the possibility. He lived up to that promise.
At a Human Rights Campaign dinner last October, Biden was joined by former NBA player Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete to play in the NBA, plus Blossom Brown, a transgender woman from Mississippi. All spoke out in favor of Equal Rights for everyone in our country.
Speaking at a celebration for the Supreme Court’s ruling on Marriage Equality, Biden spoke movingly of Gay Rights activists’ struggle, promising to fight for equal-protection laws for Gay Americans, and not-so-subtly tooted his own horn in helping marriage become legal for everyone.
“You left the Supreme Court absolutely no choice, no choice whatsoever, and I mean that. The very fact that we finally recognize that love is not a political matter, it’s a basic human right. The fact that we recognize that is because of you. You’ve changed the world in which my grandchildren will grow up.”
Biden always had a strong record in support of Gay Rights reaching back to his own teenage years:
“This has been a heroic battle. But it’s been based on this very simple proposition best expressed to me by my dad as a 17 year-old kid. I recall a time when my father and I witnessed two men kissing. I turned and looked at my dad, and I’ll never forget what he said: ‘Joey, they love each other. It’s simple’.”
He had been instrumental in helping appoint Justice Anthony Kennedy who cast that deciding vote in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark Marriage Equality ruling.
There was also that famous moment on NBC’s Meet The Press in 2012, when Biden endorsed Same-Sex Marriage, reportedly frustrating Obama’s team who had also planned on announcing the President’s own support for Marriage Equality, but he beat them to it by three weeks. He will always be remembered as President Obama’s conscience on LGBTQ rights.
It’s easy to forget now, but for most of his first term, Obama was elusive on the subject if Marriage Equality. After working on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in late 2010, Obama stepped away from further discussion on Gay Rights, declining to commit to full equality, even after the New York State’s Marriage Equality battle had been won. In early 2012, gay Americans waited anxiously for Obama to “evolve” on the issue, but he said nothing. As the 2012 election approached, it appeared alarmingly likely that Obama would once again campaign on a Non-Equality platform.
Three days after Biden declared his support for marriage equality on national television, Obama did the same. Never before had a POTUS endorsed the right of same-sex couples to wed.
I think Obama would have eventually championed Marriage Equality. He had kept hidden his actual views for fear of political blowback. But, Biden expedited the process at the perfect moment, turning the 2012 election into a referendum on Marriage Equality and Obama’s victory all the more special.
Biden’s own work had focused heavily on the fight to grant equal protection to individuals in the workplace and housing. He has pushed the Obama Administration to expand equal-protection laws for gay Americans in those states that do not explicitly bar discrimination based on sexuality. Biden:
“There are still 32 states where marriage can be recognized in the morning, and you can still be fired in the afternoon. I want you to know that this next door will be a hell of a lot easier to open.”
In typical Biden “speak”, he has noted that the vocal LGBTQ community has helped many straight people feel more comfortable about supporting Gay Rights.
“Homophobia also intimidated millions of straight people who didn’t have a homophobic bone in their body. They are now free as well.”
“You don’t owe me or the President any thanks. We owe you. It’s hard for me to imagine the sense of accomplishment Gay Americans must feel.”
The Vice President continues to urge gay people to keep working for full equality. He has stated that he believes that most Americans support proposed protections against housing, employment and services contained in much disputed, now dead, Equality Act. But, he also believes that LGBTQ Americans still face discrimination.
“Most American people are already with you. Look at the numbers. Oh, there are homophobes still left. Most of them are running for President, I think.”
Poor Joe, it has to pain him to see the homophobes grab the White House.
“We lost because an awful lot of hard-working Americans who live in areas where we did not pay much attention to. Barack Obama won these people. They are not racist. They did not vote for the Democrats this time.”
Biden said this week that Globalization has fundamentally altered the economic outlook for these voters, especially blue-collar white American men, who are feeling left behind by the political process.
“For the first time in recent memory, this is one section of American population where the life expectancy has gone down. It is white American men between the age of 40 and 55. They have the highest suicide rate in America. Because they do not know how to deal with the new incredible changes that is taking place in the world.”
This week, across that Internet thing, there has been a wide range of reactions to the election of you-know-who and his extremely homophobic Veep. Many people expressed grief at Hillary Clinton’s loss and rage against Rapey Von Tinyfingers’ ascension. But there has also been a humorous approach to this dreadful state of things: memes. The series of hilarious Biden/Obama have helped lift our spirits just a bit.
Obama: “Joe, why are you still holding my hand?”
Biden: “I wanna freak Mike Pence out”
Obama: “But why?”
Biden: “Just roll with it”
Over the past eight years, Biden has proven to be a gaffe-prone but lovable and valuable member of the Obama administration. This week, we have fallen in love with him all over again, launching new memes every day. Today, my feed was loaded with Biden/Obama Hamilton memes.
Biden: “Pulled it off.”
Obama: “Which one?”
Biden: “Convinced Pence seeing Hamilton was mandatory for getting his security clearance.”
The giggles make us conscious of the fact that on January 20th the country will also be saying goodbye to Vice President Joe Biden and in a real sense, to the nation as we know it.