Vice President Joe Biden joined business leaders at the World Economic Forum today in Davos, Switzerland, in a meeting on LGBT rights and unleashed a withering denunciation of countries who use “culture” as an excuse to deny rights to LGBT people, urging businessmen to put anti-LGBT nations “on notice”.
“When it comes to LGBT rights in the workplace the world is looking to you. I know that sounds like hyperbole, sounds like exaggeration, but they look to you. You have more impact than anything the federal government has done, or the Supreme Court of the United States has done, or that Barack Obama and Joe Biden have done, lighting up the White House. You have more impact. You have more impact in countries around the world than we do on those social issues. You literally can change the terms of the debate – not overnight – but collectively you can change the terms of the debate. And shift some public opinion. You actually put governments on notice.”
He then offered an anecdotal example of how things have changed socially in the United States and how that has moved mountains:
“You have a business meeting at a hotel in New York or San Francisco or wherever. And you have four or five men or women at that business meeting, and a waiter comes up with a lisp and says ‘what can I help you with?’ If one smart jerk at the table said (making an effeminate gesture), ‘well let me tell you what I’d like,’ you’d all basically have kept your mouth shut [at one time], wouldn’t have said anything. Today, name me a business meeting in the United States of America where somebody did that – the other four people’d say ‘what the hell’s the matter with you, man?’”
Biden became emotional and angry about countries that continue to make excuses for LGBT oppression:
“So many straight folks have been freed from this straitjacket of what they thought they were expected to support. And that’s why we’ve had this exponential move on this issue. Mistreatment by cops, denial of healthcare, isolation, always in the name of culture. I’ve had it up to HERE with culture. I really mean it. Culture NEVER JUSTIFIES rank, raw discrimination or violation of human rights. There is NO CULTURAL JUSTIFICATION. None. None. None.”
Finally, he concluded:
“And think of the countries still be hiding behind ‘this is our culture’. Well 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 the basic fundamental human rights of other people.”