“Biden needs better coaching on this — he’s gone off the rails,” tweeted civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, who is openly gay. “Warren is on fire. It is clear why she is rising in the polls.”
Biden’s sometimes bizarre segment included him swearing that President Barack Obama kissed him, mistakenly using a phrase to suggest Biden himself is gay and invoking the phrases “gay bathhouses” and “round-the-clock sex.”
An energetic Warren, meanwhile, walked on stage remarking that she was ready “to have some fun tonight.” And she did.
She shot down men who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds with a well-received one-liner, sang a children’s church song and also earned applause for targeting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos while still communicating her policy positions.
Biden recalled his 2012 “Meet the Press” interview during which he expressed support for same-sex marriage. Biden told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday that he had already expressed his position to Obama and simply answered a question honestly on the Sunday show, but “everybody thought that I had jumped the gun on the president.”
“I went in on Monday, and all the national press is saying Biden’s gonna really get nailed when he walks in and sees the president every morning. He got up, and he walked over to me. He said, ‘Well, you told me,’ and he gave me a kiss,” Biden said, walking toward Cooper to embrace him and leaning in as if he were going to give him a kiss on the cheek. “I swear to God.”
At another point, the former vice president almost used the “coming out” phrase.
“When I came out and …,” he began saying before correcting himself. “When I publicly stated ….”
“That would be news,” Cooper said as the crowd laughed. A smiling Biden joked to Cooper that he had something to tell him as he moved closer and put his arm around him.
“I kind of figured it out a while ago,” Cooper quipped.
In Biden’s final comments before exiting the stage, he tried to make the point that most Americans are afraid, not homophobic. They don’t understand LGBTQ people, he said, or know them.
“It’s not strange. That’s the generic point,” Biden said. “And the more people know that, the more they understand it. Remember, Anderson, back 15, 20 years ago? We talked about this in San Francisco. It was all about, well, you know, gay bathhouses. It was all about round-the-clock sex. Come on, man. Gay couples are likely to stay together longer than heterosexual couples.”
“We’re gonna leave it there, Mr. Vice President,” Cooper said, ending the segment.
Asked what she would do to ensure passage of the Equality Act in the Senate, where Republicans currently hold the majority, Warren stressed that voters have to elect more Democrats into the upper chamber because LGBTQ protections are a priority for the Democratic Party and she wants to send a message to her GOP colleagues.
“We believe that equal means equal everywhere,” Warren said of Democrats. “I also say it because I want our Republican friends to hear that in the United States Senate. I want them to know that people vote based on LGBTQ issues. So I’m willing to continue to push Mitch McConnell right now, but my No. 1 goal is to make sure that he is not the majority leader come January 2021.”
Warren maintained her support for eliminating the Senate filibuster, telling the crowd that Senate Republicans “can’t have a veto” if Americans want to see change on an issue that has a vocal minority of opposition.
And while some past education secretaries have been “better” using their authority over public schools, the rules and their enforcement, “We’ve had one that’s been a whole lot worse,” Warren said. “Her name is Betsy DeVos. So when I’m president, she’ll be gone.”
Warren was also asked about how she would respond on the campaign trail if a supporter told her that his or her faith says marriage is between a man and a woman.
“Well, I’m gonna assume it’s a guy who said that,” Warren said. “And I’m gonna say then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that — assuming you can find one.”
It was yet another applause line for Warren, who also drew cheers from the audience for pausing her comments to acknowledge that she loves saying “as president” and vowing to “do what a president can do all by herself” to end the AIDS pandemic.
Though Warren grew up in a conservative household and was a registered Republican before becoming a Democrat, the Massachusetts senator said that while she doesn’t “have notes from when I was a little kid,” she also doesn’t remember having a different position on same-sex marriage.
“I mean, to me it’s about what I learned in the church I grew up in,” she explained. “First song I ever remember singing is: ‘They are yellow, black and white. They are precious in his sight. Jesus loves all the children in the world.’”
“The hatefulness, frankly, always really shocked me, especially for people of faith because I think the whole foundation is the worth of every single human being,” she said. “And I get people may make decisions for themselves that are different than the decisions other people make, but by golly, those are decisions about you. They are not decisions that tell people what they can or cannot do.”
Warren said she regrets criticizing a judge’s ruling that granted transition-related surgery to a transgender inmate during her 2012 Senate campaign but failed to take a strong position on whether she believed crimes against transgender people should be charged as hate crimes.
“I think we could if we think that’s going to be the most effective way to make change,” she said.
Nine candidates participated in the marathon series of town halls, which lasted until midnight, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer and South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont pulled out of the event after recently suffering a heart attack, but his campaign released a statement Thursday afternoon expressing support for the LGBTQ community.
Buttigieg, the only openly gay candidate in the 2020 field, spoke between Biden and Warren in personal terms about what it was like for him to come out and whether he believes God made him gay.
“There is no right or wrong way to be gay, to be queer, to be trans,” Buttigieg said.