How Joe Biden became the most LGBTQ-friendly president in U.S. history

WASHINGTON – For two men on a street corner in Delaware, it was a simple goodbye kiss.

For young Joe Biden, it was an awakening to the then-taboo issue of gay rights.

The future president was a young man fresh out of high school when, one day in the early 1960s, his father drove him into Wilmington to pick up an application for a summer job as a lifeguard at one of the city’s public pools. As Biden got out of the car, he saw two men dressed in suits kissing each other goodbye.

“I hadn’t seen that before,” Biden recalled during a CNN Town Hall in Los Angeles in 2019. “I looked at my dad, and he just looked at me. He said, ‘It’s simple. They love each other.’”

Biden has told variations of the story multiple times over the years to help explain how he came to be an unapologetic advocate for the LGBTQ cause.

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Associated Press, USA TODAY

Like many men and women of his era, Biden’s evolution on gay issues has been filled with twists and turns – at times to the consternation of those at the forefront of the movement. But by the time he took office in January as the nation’s 46th president, Biden’s support for equality was so unequivocal that activists were hailing him as the most pro-LGBTQ president in U.S. history.

“When you look at the breadth and the scope of his support for LGBTQ rights, I think it's fair to say that he is the most pro-equality president that we've ever had,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group.

Other presidents, namely Bill Clinton, have publicly professed their support for the LGBTQ movement but have been wary of the politics of gay rights, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker said.

“Strictly on what he has been able to accomplish in office, (Biden) already has eclipsed previous presidents,” said Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which is dedicated to electing LGBTQ people to all levels of government.

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