Illustration by Gillian Ross, Graphics by Timothy A. Clary and The Editors
As I read the longer transcripts of the Biden-Pennsylvania Senate hearing on gays in the military this month, I saw how a man now 69 and in a vice presidency who is the pride of the Democratic Party and widely considered its leader, repeatedly articulated uncomfortable views, skeptical of the military’s ability to accept and integrate sexual minorities, but also of the political costs if the president declined to exercise his authority in this case. If the current president does not renew the ban on openly gay military personnel — which is constitutional — in December, Biden later noted, “it’s going to cost him a hell of a lot of votes.” It didn’t stop him.
To political skeptics, the Democrat has always been someone who seems more eager to reinvent himself than to stick to truth. But that is not the case with his record on gay rights. Perhaps my biggest disagreement with him concerns divorce, one of his central forms of political rhetoric. As he admitted this summer, he had been “honestly misjudging” the ground when he said in 1996 that the problems of women with fertility would prevent them from being mothers. “I didn’t get that one right,” he said of the wrong turn from favoring equal access to birth control to supporting reducing access.