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Joe Biden Bows Out, Leaves Legacy of LGBT Advocacy

Joe Biden Bows Out, Leaves Legacy of LGBT Advocacy

Joe Biden in Rose Garden

The vice president acknowledged that his family's process of grieving his son has 'closed the window' on running an effective presidential campaign. 

After months of "Will he or won't he?" speculation, Vice President Joe Biden announced today that will not seek the Democratic Party's nomination for president in 2016.

The vice president spoke openly about his family's ongoing grieving process as they reel from the death of the vice president's eldest son, Beau Biden, who succumbed to brain cancer earlier this year.

"It may very well be that the process [of grieving] closes the window of opportunity to mount a winning campaign," Biden said from the White House Rose Garden this morning, with President Obama and Dr. Jill Biden by his side. "There is no timetable for this process; the process doesn't much care about filing deadlines."

"Beau is our inspiration," Biden said. "Unfortunately, we're out of time."

Biden talked wistfully about what he'd have accomplished as president, such as eradicating cancer. Then he talked about what's left to do on advancing equality.

"I also believe we need to keep moving forward in the arc of this nation toward justice," he said. "The rights of the LGBT community, immigration reform, equal pay for women and protecting their safety from violence, rooting out institutional racism. At their core, every one of these things is about the same thing: it's about equality, it's about fairness, it's about respect. As my dad used to say, it's about affording every single person dignity. It's not complicated."

Biden, who offered no endorsement but is rooting for the Democratic nominee in the 2016 election, predicts that whoever wins the nomination and the election will have a fight on his or her hands.

"And the ugly forces of hate and division, they won't let up," Biden said. "But they do not represent the American people, they do not represent the heart of this country, the represent a small fraction of the political elite, and the next president is going to have to take it on."

Biden has in recent years been a strong supporter of LGBT rights, although, like Clinton and President Obama, he "evolved" on the issues over his political career, in which he served 36 years as a U.S. senator from Delaware before being elected vice president in 2008.

Biden preceded President Obama in coming out for marriage equality in May 2012. "I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties," he said on Meet the Press that month. Obama announced his support for marriage equality a few days later.

Like Obama, Biden had previously supported civil unions rather than marriage rights for same-sex couples, although he had said for years that marriage equality was probably inevitable. In 1996, however, he joined in the effort to delay the inevitable by voting for the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court struck down the main provision of DOMA in 2013.

Biden supports the Equality Act, which would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and a variety of other areas, and he supported its predecessor, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He has called LGBT equality "the civil rights issue of our generation."

He has been involved in other LGBT rights fights as well. In 1993, when President Bill Clinton failed to win congressional support to end the military's ban on service by gays, lesbians, and bisexuals and came up with the "don't ask, don't tell" compromise, Biden supported a bill that would have kept that policy from being codified in federal law, but it did not pass. He later became active in the effort to repeal DADT, which finally succeeded when he was vice president. Recently, he has endorsed allowing transgender troops to serve openly. "No longer is there any question: Transgender people are able to serve in the United States military," he said at a Human Rights Campaign event this month.

Biden also has a record of supporting LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes law, which Congress finally passed during his vice presidency.

Watch his speech below.

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