NEW YORK (AP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden, warning of transgender Americans “under attack” in Republican-led states, on Wednesday challenged the nation’s LGBT community to push back against President Donald Trump’s administration.
“Hold President Trump accountable for his pledge to be your friend,” Biden declared at a private LGBT gala hosted by the Democratic National Committee in New York. “Just because you don’t have Barack and me in the White House doesn’t mean it’s time to give up, keep quiet, stay on the sidelines.”
Trump vowed to protect the LGBT community during his campaign, but critics say he hasn’t kept his word since taking office. The issue has earned relatively little notice in Washington as political leaders focus on health care, taxes and multiple investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
The Trump administration in February lifted Obama-era federal guidelines that allowed transgender students to use school bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities. LGBT advocates also note that Trump, breaking from the practice of Obama, declined to issue a formal proclamation in honor of Pride Month in June.
In a statement, the White House pushed back against critics of the Republican president.
“President Trump has been clear in his commitment to improving the lives of all Americans, including those in the LGBT community,” White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said.
While Biden avoided lashing out at Trump directly, he condemned the president’s political party and homophobic regimes around the world that promote policies such as “corrective rape” and “conversion therapy” on gay people.
“Transgender Americans are under attack from state legislatures from North Carolina to Texas,” Biden added, citing legislation “targeting young people, kids who are just trying to attend school.”
Proponents of bathroom laws in Republican-led states warn of safety concerns should students be allowed to select bathrooms or locker rooms that match their gender identities. In reversing the Obama-era policy, the Trump administration cited states’ rights.
Biden has been increasingly politically active since leaving the White House.
The 74-year-old Democrat launched a political action committee earlier in the month, stoking speculation he may seek the presidency in 2020. He headlined a fundraiser for Florida Democrats on Saturday and met privately with allies of Republican Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate, the weekend before.
Biden was introduced Wednesday by DNC finance chair Henry Munoz, having officiated Munoz’s same-sex wedding last month.
Munoz described the environment created by the Trump administration as “scary.”
“This moment has been injected with hate and separation and is the farthest away from equality we have ever stood in my lifetime,” Munoz said.
Munoz was among at least four openly gay DNC leaders who attended Wednesday’s gala. The committee’s new CEO, Jess O’Connell, was among them.
“I got married about seven months ago to my wife,” she said. “I felt tremendous relief to have gotten married when we did after the results of the election. It is a scary time.”