WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- Vice President Joe Biden has issued a statement likening "religious condemnation" of the sin of homosexuality to "violence with impunity," among other things.
In the statement, issued from the White House on the "International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia," celebrated widely in Europe and South America on May 17, Biden said the lesbian, gay and transgender (LGBT) community had displayed great bravery in the push for equal rights.
"In the last decade, thanks to the astounding bravery of the LGBT community and those who have championed their cause, the United States has made remarkable progress toward the ultimate goal of equality in law and in life. Our progress remains incomplete, but the momentum has shifted in the right direction."
Gay rights activists have worked to make same-sex marriage legal in 37 states, largely by filing federal lawsuits to overturn traditional laws which provide for marriage only between a man and a woman. In other states, like California, courts have overturned constitutional amendments passed by large majorities in popular votes.
Thirteen states, including Texas and other states in the South and Midwest, are holding out against same-sex marriage, but the Supreme Court may soon overturn laws protecting traditional marriage in those states, as well.
In April, Christian Examiner reported on oral arguments at the Supreme Court in the case of Obergfell v. Hodges, in which lawyers for the plaintiffs argued the Fourteenth Amendment not only grants same-sex couples the right to marry but also compels states without same-sex marriage laws to recognize marriages from states that do. The Court is expected to rule on the case in June at the close of its session.
States such as Texas have argued that only individual states have the right to determine marriage laws because the Constitution does not grant that power to the federal government. Christian Examiner also reported on a bill in the Texas House which would have made the state the sole authority on matters related to marriage. That bill died, however, after Democrats used delaying tactics to prevent it from coming up for a vote.
In other cases, state and federal courts have mandated that business owners who object to same-sex marriage have no right to refuse service to same-sex couples on the grounds of sincerely held religious belief.
"Progress has also been made in many places around the world," Biden said. "But in too many places, life for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals is actually getting worse. In too many places, LGBT community members face violence with impunity, mistreatment by police, the denial of healthcare, or religious condemnation and social isolation."
Biden said the rights of LGBT people must be defended and voices raised "in favor of universal human rights."
"We cannot rest until everyone receives the dignity, respect, and equal treatment under the law that all people deserve," Biden said in the statement.
President Barack Obama also issued a statement, though more tame than the vice president's. The president said he and the first lady pledged to "reaffirm that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights are human rights, to celebrate the dignity of every person, and to underscore that all people deserve to live free from fear, violence, and discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love."
Obama did not mention religious belief, but still said the government was working to "end bias-motivated violence, combat discrimination in the workplace, and address the specific needs of transgender persons."
"Overseas, I am proud of the steps that the United States has taken to prioritize the protection and promotion of LGBT rights in our diplomacy and global outreach.
There is much more to do, and this fight for equality will not be won in a day. But we will keep working, at home and abroad, and we will keep fighting, for however long it takes until we are all able to live free and equal in dignity and rights."
Obama told members of Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in 2008 while running for president that he believed "marriage was the union between a man and a woman."
"Now, for me as a Christian, it's also a sacred union. God's in the mix," Obama said at the California Church. When asked by Warren if he would support a constitutional amendment supporting traditional marriage, he answered "no."
Obama said: "Because historically, we have not defined marriage in our Constitution. It has been a matter of state law. That has been our tradition. Let's break it down. The reason people think there needs to be a constitutional amendment, some people believe, is because of the concern about same-sex marriage. I'm not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions. I do believe we should not -- that for gay partners to want to visit each other in a hospital, for the state to say, 'You know what, that's alright.' I don't think in any way that inhibits my core beliefs about what marriage is. I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others even if I have a different perspective or a different view."
Obama has since said he has "evolved" on the issue, but David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president, revealed in recent book that the president was being disingenuous when he was at the California Church. In 1996, he completed an Illinois campaign questionnaire stating he was in favor of same-sex marriage, but Axelrod writes Obama changed his position because he realized how strong the opposition to same-sex marriage was in black churches, a key-constituency he would have to win in his race for the White House.