Michael Lombardo, the former president of HBO, says that it was a meeting with his husband and kids that convinced President Joe Biden to change his mind on same-sex marriage.
Lombardo told Variety that back in 2012, the Human Rights Campaign approached him asking if he and his husband, Sonny Ward, would be willing to host a meet-and-greet for Biden with LGBTQ+ people in the entertainment industry at their Los Angeles home. Biden was then vice president, and he and President Barack Obama were running for a second term.
While their first term had seen the revocation of "don’t ask, don’t tell" and the passage of an LGBTQ-inclusive hate-crimes law, same-sex marriages were still not legally recognized in most of the country, and the LGBTQ+ community wanted to see more from Obama and Biden. Both were on record as opposing marriage equality.
Lombardo said that instead of working the crowd, Biden focused on talking to his family. “He sat down and talked to our kids — and to us — as a human,” he told Variety. “Totally unguarded, totally present for my kids, in a way that moved us enormously.” Biden was so engaged with Lombardo’s family that his handlers had to keep him moving by saying “Enough, Joe.”
Shortly after the event, on May 6, 2012, Lombardo got a text from his aunt telling him to put on Meet the Press, where Biden was appearing. The show’s host, David Gregory, asked the then-vice-president if his opinion on same-sex marriage had evolved at all.
While Biden initially said he deferred to Obama on the issue, he also told the story about meeting Lombardo and his family, and said that the issue really just comes down to “Who do you love?” and unequivocally endorsed marriage equality. Three days later, in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News, Obama announced that he too supported marriage equality.
Lombardo, who now works at Entertainment One as president of global television, is still a big fan of Biden and supported him throughout his candidacy last year. “Our kids are much older now, and he is still Joe Biden — he spent time with them.” He added, “I think his morality, humanity, and authenticity are rare. After four years of what we’ve seen in Washington, all of those qualities are what we desperately [in] need of right now.”