President Biden has said that he experienced an “epiphany” while in high school that led him to support gay marriage — but his voting record as a senator and remarks made over the following decades suggest otherwise.
Biden, 80, was asked during an interview Monday by ”The Daily Show” host Kal Penn about his evolving views on same-sex marriage and how the federal government could protect LGBTQ Americans.
The president answered Penn: “I can remember exactly where my epiphany was” before launching into a story about his father dropping him off when he was a high school senior.
“I remember about to get out of the car and I look to my right and two well-dressed men in suits kissed each other. … And I’ll never forget it, I turned and looked at my dad and he said ‘Joey, it’s simple. They love each other,’” Biden recalled.
“It’s just that simple, it doesn’t matter whether it’s same-sex or a heterosexual couple, you should be able to be married,” he continued. “So what is the problem?”
But before Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act last December and made comments in support of gay marriage in 2012 that prompted President Barack Obama to adopt the same position, he had a long track record of opposing legal recognition of same-sex couples.
In 1996, Biden, then a Democratic senator from Delaware, voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which declared that states were not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state and defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Two years earlier, Biden was on board with a measure proposed by Republican Sens. Robert Smith of New Hampshire and Jesse Helms of North Carolina that cut federal funds to schools that taught acceptance of homosexuality.
In 1973, a dozen years after he graduated high school, Biden told his Delaware constituents that his “gut reaction” to a question about gays working for the federal government was that they would be “security risks.”
During an appearance on “Meet the Press” in 2006, Biden was asked about President George W. Bush’s efforts to press Congress to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have banned same-sex marriage across the US.
“We already have a law, the Defense of Marriage Act,” he said at the time. “We’ve all voted.”
“Look, marriage is between a man and a woman and states must respect that,” Biden continued at the time. “Nobody’s violated that law, there’s been no challenge to that law. Why do we need a constitutional amendment? Marriage is between a man and a woman.”