Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week, Vice President Joe Biden urged international business leaders to work for change in countries where LGBT people are oppressed.
“You can change the terms of debate and shift some public opinion,” Biden told attendees at a roundtable discussion Wednesday, according to Reuters. “You actually put governments on notice.”
This is the first year the forum’s agenda has included the topic of LGBT rights, Reuters reports, noting that the meeting is a venue “where political leaders from countries that discriminate against gay people, such as Nigeria and Russia, schmooze business leaders and billionaire investors.”
Those hearing Biden speak included Airbnb cofounder Nathan Blecharczyk, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, and SkyBridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci, the news service reports.
Biden mentioned that he and President Obama have discussed the treatment of LGBT people with political leaders around the world. “I have had some run-ins with at least four heads of state already on this,” Biden said.
He also dismissed the idea that anti-LGBT views are a cultural phenomenon that needs to be respected and preserved. Cultures change, he noted, banging his hand on a table for emphasis: “Culture never justifies rank, raw discrimination, or violation of human rights. … People used to be cannibals — that was part of the culture. People used to do terrible things — it was part of the culture. The progress of humankind has been a steady progress toward acknowledging basic, fundamental rights of other people.”
Watch a video from the Associated Press below.