Biden courts LGBTQ voters

Biden courts LGBTQ voters
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Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden bemoans white supremacy in remarks at civil rights movement site Gun control: Campaigning vs. legislating Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate MORE is courting the LGBTQ community, aiming to win support in a crowded field of Democrats including Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegO'Rourke responds to Buttigieg's gun criticism: 'That calculation and fear is what got us here in the first place' Buttigieg: Biden gave 'bad' debate answer on slavery's legacy O'Rourke's debate moment reignites gun debate on Sunday shows MORE, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Ind. 

Biden, whose public support for gay marriage as vice president famously put him in front of then-President Obama, will speak at a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) dinner in Ohio this weekend. 

He’s expected to remind attendees of his leadership on marriage equality in addition to his support for hate crime protections. 


“I’m sure he’ll make it known that he was the one who announced his support for gay marriage and carried President Obama over the line with him,” said one top Democratic fundraiser, who is gay. “He earned a lot of goodwill for that and the community hasn’t forgotten.” 

The HRC dinner is a good place for the reminder since a number of high-profile Democrats will be in attendance. 

“That room is packed with Democratic donors so it's good for his communication, good for his politics and good for fundraising,” said one Democratic strategist who is not affiliated with any campaign. 

Ahead of Pride Month in June, Biden’s campaign unveiled rainbow-themed campaign T-shirts and other gear — something a number of Democratic presidential campaigns have done in recent weeks. 

The campaign T-shirts point to the heavy competition for gay voters, said more than a dozen LGBTQ donors, strategists and activists interviewed by The Hill.  

Biden faces competition not just from Buttigieg but from Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGun control: Campaigning vs. legislating Booker defends middle-ground health care approach: 'We're going to fight to get there' Democrats spar over electoral appeal of 'Medicare for All' MORE (Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Gun control: Campaigning vs. legislating Booker defends middle-ground health care approach: 'We're going to fight to get there' MORE (Calif.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAt debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR Trump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions Klobuchar, Buttigieg find themselves accidentally flying to debate together MORE (N.Y.), who advocated for LGBTQ rights, including the repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell" as a senator. 

Biden has earned goodwill in the community by launching a campaign through his foundation last year aimed at boosting the acceptance of LGBTQ youth by their families. He also spoke at the HRC dinner in Washington last year. 

But he also has had some missteps. 

Activists criticized Biden in late February after he called Vice President Pence “a decent guy.” Pence has a history of opposing gay rights and as governor signed a bill that granted protections to business owners who opposed participating in same-sex weddings. 

“You’ve just called America’s most anti-LGBT elected leader ‘a decent guy,’ ” Cynthia Nixon, the actress, gay rights activist and former New York gubernatorial candidate, wrote on Twitter. “Please consider how this falls on the ears of our community.”  

Biden had to walk back the comments immediately. 

“You’re right, Cynthia,” he responded on Twitter. “I was making a point in a foreign policy context, that under normal circumstances a Vice President wouldn’t be given a silent reaction on the world stage. But there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the vice president.” 

Even his closest advocates in the LGBTQ community were happy to see Biden correct himself right away.

“He back-pedaled, which he should have,” said Tim Gill, the software entrepreneur and one of the top mega-donors who together with his husband Scott Miller have given nearly half a billion dollars in philanthropic and political causes to secure LGBTQ equality. “I give him a lot of points that he realized and changed course." 

“One of the things I like about someone is their ability to change their mind in light of new information,” Gill said, adding he wants someone “who can look at all sides of the issue.” 

“It’s really clear that he has a skillset that is lacking in the current administration,” Gill said. 


For that reason and others, Gill and Miller — who currently serves as a senior adviser to Jill Biden on the campaign— are supporting Biden. 

But others are still undecided. 

Nancy Lyons — a CEO and LGBTQ advocate based in Minnesota — said she gives Biden “a lot of credit” for his support of gay marriage and bringing a more reluctant Obama to voicing support for the issue. But as a self-described feminist, “I need to hear more from him about Anita HillAnita Faye HillAnita Hill: I could see myself voting for Biden over Trump Bill Maher: Buttigieg a 'little too young' to be president What I saw at the last impeachment: Rules are for little people MORE … I need to hear more accountability.” 

At the same time, she’s taking a look at other candidates including Buttigieg. 

“I find Mayor Pete compelling and accessible, consistent and wildly intelligent but I'm not going to vote for someone just because they’re gay." 

“I’m open to seeing how this plays out,” Lyons said. 

Still, Buttigieg is expected to erode some of Biden’s support in the LGBTQ community, those interviewed for this story say. 

“Biden’s biggest challenge will be with gay white males,” the Rev. Stan Sloan, a longtime LGBTQ activist, predicted.

“I love Uncle Joe and would be thrilled if he won the election but the opportunity to have a gay family in the White House … That opportunity may not come around for another 50 years again.”