Vice President Joe Biden got visibly heated while discussing the importance of LGBT rights at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. During a roundtable discussion, Biden lamented that openly gay and transgender people are still treated like second class citizens around the world.
“LGBT people face violence, harassment, unequal treatment, mistreatment by cops, denial of health care, isolation — always in the name of culture. I’ve had it up to here with culture. I really mean it,” he said, striking the table with his palms. “Culture never justifies rank, raw, discrimination or violation of human rights. There is no cultural justification. None. None. None.”
Biden said that he has confronted at least four heads of state from countries where people face persecution over their sexuality. He didn’t say which leaders he spoke to, but at least 75 countries represented in Davos outlaw homosexuality.
The vice president has been a vocal champion for gay rights during his time in the White House. In 2012, he publicly announced his support for same sex marriage — a move many suspected prompted a similar announcement three days later from President Barack Obama. Most recently, he helped the administration push comprehensive new legislation to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
“When you speak up, you change the terms of the debate,” he told the group at Davos.
The discussion was hosted by the Human Rights Campaign in partnership with Microsoft and SkyBridge Capital.