Vice President Biden on Thursday hailed the Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, calling it equal to the Brown v. Board of Education decision that desegregated the nation's schools.
"This is the civil rights movement of our generation," Biden told the gay-rights group Freedom to Marry at a gala in New York City. "This decision is as consequential as Brown v. the Board."
The vice president's popularity among gay rights groups soared after he expressed his support for same-sex marriage in May 2012. President Obama had not yet announced his support, and, when he did so, he admitted Biden's comments had forced his timing.
Biden joked at the opening of his remarks, "I take credit for everything." Turning serious, he told the activists gathered in the audience, "You don’t owe me or Valerie [Jarrett] or the president or anybody any thanks. We owe you."
"You risked a great deal," he added. "I risked nothing holding this position I have had for so many years."
The vice president said his views about gay rights were formed as a teenager when he was riding in the car with his father in his hometown of Wilmington, Del. They saw two men kissing each other on their way to work.
When Biden asked his father about it, he replied, "Joey, they love each other. It’s simple."
While Biden pegged Obergefell v. Hodges as one of the most significant decisions in the court's history, he said it was "inevitable" because of the work that had been done by gay-rights activists to promote their cause for decades in the face of discrimination.
"So many remained silent for fear of being ostracized. You set them free from the stigma that they feared," he said.
The Supreme Court decided on June 26 that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the Constitution, making the practice legal in all 50 states.
Biden said his views on equality led him to oppose the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, when he was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. After Bork's nomination failed, President Ronald Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy, the justice who wrote the majority opinion in the gay marriage case.
While he joked the Supreme Court's decision would put Freedom to Marry "out of business," Biden said there is more work to be done to advance gay rights, noting that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can be fired from their jobs in over half the states in the U.S.
"As you know better than anyone, although this is a giant step toward equality, there is still many more steps we have to take, and there is so much more to do," he said. "There are still 32 states where marriage can be recognized in the morning but you can be fired in the afternoon."
He expressed confidence those laws would be taken off the books, saying that many people might not be aware they exist.
"When the people, the organizations in this room, and the president and I take this fight to the American people, we will win," he said. "Because all we have to do is let them know what the law allows now."