In this op-ed series published exclusively on Out.com, members of the LGBTQ+ community discuss their support for the major contenders in the 2020 presidential primaries. Participating candidates include Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bloomberg, and Cory Booker, and one editorial will be published every weekday. The editorials in this series do not reflect the views of Out magazine or its editors.
In today’s installment, longtime LGBTQ+ advocate Emily Hecht-McGowan tells us why she believes Joe Biden should be the next president of the United States.
I live in Takoma Park, Maryland with my wife and our two young daughters, ages seven and three.
In 2012, while I was pregnant with our first child, Maryland was in the middle of a statewide referendum to repeal marriage rights for same-sex couples like mine. In every previous instance where marriage went up for a statewide vote, we lost at the ballot box. That year Maryland was one of four states with marriage equality on the ballot. The margins of support were razor thin — so thin, in fact, that some advocacy groups questioned whether we could win and felt their resources would be better utilized elsewhere. It didn’t look good.
In 2012, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was still the law of the land. Only six states granted same-sex marriage licenses and 30 states had constitutional amendments banning the freedom to marry. The political headwinds were against us.
While most people awaiting their first child spend time preparing the nursery, making lists of potential names, and scheduling hospital visits, my wife and I met with our lawyer. Because our “skim milk” marriage was only partially recognized, we worried about the legal dangers should we encounter a health scare or some other kind of emergency. We spent thousands of dollars drafting the numerous legal documents we needed to ensure our protection in a world that was still unwelcoming — and sometimes quite hostile — to our new little family.
We worked with several state and local groups to educate our friends and neighbors about why marriage was so critically important to our family. We knocked on doors and made telephone calls, but all of the polling showed us that we still had a lot of work to do to persuade the majority of Marylanders to vote with us.
Then on May 6, 2012 — a Sunday morning — Vice President Joe Biden appeared on Meet the Press. The national dialogue increasingly centered around the fight for marriage, so a related question was all but assured. By this time, the administration had ceased defending DOMA in the courts, but had stopped short of endorsing the freedom to marry as a fundamental right for all. When the question finally came to him, it was a simple proposition for the vice president: “Who do you love?”
In four words, Joe Biden became the highest-ranking U.S. official to affirm that my family is entitled to full dignity and equality under the law. In this one brief and unscripted answer, he moved our country forward. Just three days later, President Obama publicly affirmed his support for the freedom to marry.
Perhaps unknowingly, Vice President Biden created a watershed moment in the fight for the freedom to marry, breaking down centuries of legal and social oppression and moving our country a little closer to the full promise of equality. We saw the ripple effects not just on state ballots that fall, but in the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling striking down Section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional and, ultimately, in 2015 when SCOTUS recognized the freedom to marry as a fundamental right for same-sex couples nationwide.
In the 50 years since Stonewall, LGBTQ+ people have achieved tremendous progress in the fight toward equality, justice, and social acceptance. These historic gains are the result of tireless LGBTQ+ leaders, activists, and courageous souls like Bayard Rustin, Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Edie Windsor, Miss Major, Gavin Grimm, and countless others. But progress cannot be achieved without allies — allies like Joe Biden.
While we can — and should — celebrate our moments of great victory, we must take stock of the moment we are living in right now. Across the globe — from Chechnya to El Salvador, Malaysia to Tanzania — people are being hunted down and tortured just because they are suspected of being queer or transgender.
Here at home, Donald Trump and Mike Pence have launched a total assault on the LGBTQ+ community, rescinding Obama-Biden era policies aimed at easing the burdens felt by some of our most vulnerable, especially young people and transgender folks. The Trump-Pence Administration allows religion to be weaponized, homeless shelters to turn away transgender people, healthcare providers to turn away LGBTQ+ patients seeking care, and adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples. And in a year that’s seen nearly two dozen trans and gender nonconforming people murdered, the majority of whom were Black trans women, the Justice Department has continued to weaken enforcement of federal hate crime statutes.
Joe Biden has a record of unmatched progress working on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. During the Obama-Biden administration, he worked across federal agencies to expand access to benefits, services, and programs for LGBTQ+ people. He helped get the Affordable Care Act — which covers over 100 million people with pre-existing conditions like HIV and includes historic nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans — over the line. He shepherded the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" through Congress and worked to implement open military service for transgender troops.
And in a time of great national tragedy, he showed his true heart — providing empathy and comfort to the survivors and families of the victims of the horrific 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.
I have had the great privilege of sitting down with Vice President Biden and talking with him about my wife and my children. As the former director for LGBTQ Equality at the Biden Foundation, I had the distinct honor to work on behalf of our beautiful and diverse community in his name. And as I sat across the table from him and discussed the challenges our community faces, I could see the compassion in his face and I could hear the resonance in his voice.
There’s just too much at stake in the next election. We need a president who sees us. We need a president who believes in us. We need a president who has proven they will stand for us and with us. We need a president like Joe Biden.
Throughout her career, Emily Hecht-McGowan has served as the director of LGBTQ Equality for the Biden Foundation, the chief policy pfficer at the Family Equality Council, and the legal director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.