Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president now that Bernie Sanders has suspended his campaign, has received his first endorsement from major LGBTQ civil rights organizations.
Equality California and its Nevada-based affiliate Silver State Equality announced today that they're endorsing Biden in "the most important election of our lifetimes," as Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur put it.
"The stakes couldn't be higher," Zbur said in a press release. "Joe Biden has taken on tough fights before, and we know he will take on Donald Trump, win back the White House, and fight alongside us for LGBTQ+ civil rights and social justice."
"Too many LGBTQ+ people across Nevada and the rest of the country -- especially LGBTQ+ people of color, immigrants, and transgender folks -- face disparities in health and well-being, an education system that isn't safe and supportive, and a justice system that targets and criminalizes us instead of protecting us," Andre C. Wade, state director of Silver State Equality, added in the release. "Donald Trump and Mike Pence didn't start those problems, but they've made all of them worse."
The groups hailed the progress made on LGBTQ rights and social justice in general during the eight years that Biden was Barack Obama's vice president, including the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," the enactment of an LGBTQ-inclusive hate-crimes law, the adoption of policies protecting LGBTQ students from bullying and discrimination, and the expansion of access to affordable health care for LGBTQ people and those living with HIV. As a candidate for president, they noted, Biden has released comprehensive plans to achieve LGBTQ equality and end the HIV epidemic.
Biden's LGBTQ+ vote director, Reggie Greer, released the following statement in response to the endorsement:
"On behalf of Vice President Biden, our campaign is deeply honored to have Equality California and Silver State Equality's endorsement and partnership in this election.
"Vice President Biden has dedicated his life to advancing equality, justice, and acceptance for LGBTQ+ people in America and around the world. But this November, the hard-won progress LGBTQ+ people have achieved is on the ballot. For more than three years, Donald Trump and Mike Pence have systematically denied, stripped, and rolled back our community's rights, freedoms, and protections. That's why it is all the more reason we are grateful for today's endorsement.
"Equality California and Silver State Equality have been trailblazers in the fight for equality and justice for LGBTQ+ people. From successfully championing the freedom to marry and defeating Proposition 8 in California, combating bullying in schools and giving voice to LGBTQ+ youth struggling with who they are or who they love, to their remarkable work reducing health disparities for LGBTQ+ Californians and Nevadans, EQCA and Silver State Equality's work at the state level has served as a model for the nation.
"With Equality California and Silver State Equality standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Vice President Biden and our campaign, we will win the Senate, retain the House, and beat Donald Trump and Mike Pence this November."
In a follow-up interview with The Advocate, Zbur said Biden is definitely a progressive, even though the former vice president is often labeled a centrist or moderate. "Joe Biden has been a champion for the LGBTQ+ community," Zbur said, adding that he will be the most pro-equality presidential nominee in U.S. history.
He mentioned Biden's historic statement of support for marriage equality on Meet the Press in 2012, days before Obama made a similar statement; his commitment to work with Congress to pass the Equality Act and sign it into law; and his vow to fight the epidemic of violence against transgender women; his endorsement of immigration reform; his plans to assure that schools provide LGBTQ students with an inclusive curriculum and protect them from bullying and harassment; and, on the whole, the fact that he will reverse the destructive policies of Trump and his administration.
"You look at all of that, and the conclusion anyone must draw is that he is the most progressive candidate for president," Zbur said.
While the differences between Biden and Trump are clear-cut, endorsements still matter, Zbur said. "We know that this is the most important election of our lifetime, and we think it's important that we rally around the Democratic nominee," he said.
Heavily Democratic California is sure to be a win for Biden, but Nevada is a key swing state, so Equality California and Silver State Equality will be involved in major get-out-the-vote efforts there and in other neighboring states, both for president and for down-ballot races, Zbur said.
In endorsing Biden, the groups join several prominent LGBTQ individuals, including Long Beach, Calif., Mayor Robert Garcia; U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona; U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York; and Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the marriage equality Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges.
"We need to do everything in our power to make sure he gets elected," Zbur said.