Sen. Joe Biden has been tapped by presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama to fill the second slot on the 2008 Democratic ticket. The selection was announced Aug. 23 to generally favorable reviews from Democratic leaders, pundits and the Party rank and file.
It was commonly observed that Biden, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, helps to balance Obama’s perceived lack of experience on foreign policy issues. Biden initially sought the Democratic nomination for himself, but he dropped out in early January after a handful of poor primary showings. It was his second unsuccessful run — the first attempt coming in 1988.
With regard to LGBT issues, Biden’s primary campaign website stated that he supports “re-examining federal laws, including the tax code, to ensure our national laws are not unfair to same-sex couples.” The site also declared his support for gay adoption rights, employment non-discrimination, hate crime protections based on sexual orientation (gender-identity was not specifically addressed) and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) annual senator ratings — compiled on the basis of how often a member votes with the equal rights group’s stated position on LGBT and related issues — Biden averaged 84 percent over nine congressional sessions from 1989 to 2006 (figures were not available for 2007).
Biden achieved a high of 100 percent in the 107th Congress (2001-02), but tumbled to a low of 63 percent the next session. His HRC rating in 2006 was 78 percent.
If these numbers seem lackluster, they were enough to draw high praise for the Delaware senator from HRC President Joe Solmonese.
“If the support Sen. Biden has proven on our issues is any indication of the type of vice president he will be then our community can be assured that Sen. Obama has chosen a thoughtful and staunch advocate for equality as his closest adviser.”
To illustrate his point, Solmonese pointed to Biden’s recent key role as Foreign Relations Chairman in securing bipartisan support to pass the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The bill included a provision repealing the discriminatory HIV travel and immigration ban, a reversal that LGBT and HIV advocates had long clamored for.
“It was because of [Biden’s] determination and tenacity that we were able to see this relic of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS torn down,” Solmonese concluded.