Joe Biden has 'human rights in his DNA' says Mary McAleese

Mary McAleese was speaking as part of the In & Out live stream on the US election and its global impact on LGBTQ+ rights.

Mary McAleese

Last night, October 5, Katherine Zappone hosted a moving and inspirational conversation on the importance of the US Election for the LGBTQ+ community in the US and Ireland. Zappone was joined by distinguished guests; former President Mary McAleese, founder of Freedom to Marry Evan Wolfson, State Rep Jon Hoadley and the President and CEO of WIN (Women In Need), Christine Quinn.

Katherine opened the discission inviting people living in Ireland to use their voice, saying that they do have an active role to play:

“You do have influence to bear and that you are not and must not be simply bystanders at an important moment in history for LGBTQ+ Rights.”

Each guest echoed this sentiment while speaking about the implications of the results of the Presidential election for LGBTQ+ rights.

‘Human rights in his DNA’

The theme of Mary McAleese’s Presidency was Building Bridges and throughout her 14 years in office, she worked to heal the fractured politico/sectarian relationships on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain.

Speaking about Ireland’s relationship to the US, former President Mary McAleese said:

“We have a passion for the United States because we have a passion for people and our people are there and they’ve made such a wonderful contribution.”

Sharing her thoughts on the candidates for presidency, McAleese said:

“I don’t know the current president of the United States, but I do know Joe Biden over a long time.

“He’s my kind of person and I know that Ireland is written in his heart because he’s always been interested in what’s going on and like the administrations that he was a very strong supporter of over the years, he kept that interest in Ireland, he helped to support our peace process.”

“If I was to ask who would I trust to be on our back all through [Brexit], and to understand what we need and to understand the ins and outs of what is a very complex situation in Ireland, I know Joe Biden understands that absolutely in anatomical detail.

“I know it’s written in Joe Biden’s heart and I trust him in that regard.”

McAleese has been a longtime ally to the LGBTQ+ community, co-founding the Irish 1970s Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform and participating in the Irish 2015 referendum campaign which led to same-sex civil marriage.

Speaking about the obstacles that the LGBTQ+ community has faced throughout the years, McAleese said: “sometimes it’s the religious right, sometimes it’s just people who don’t care, sometimes it’s bigotry, sometimes it’s homophobia.”

Saying that her and Biden come from very similar backgrounds with family’s who “dragged themselves up by the bootstraps”, McAleese said that Biden “understands that thirst to do well, to want to live an authentic life, to want to shine in your world.

“He understands what it’s like when forces oppress you and he knows that from Irish history, we Irish know what it was like when our people couldn’t be who they wanted to be under the thumb of colonisation, of imperial, of elites.

“All of that is part of our history, it’s in our DNA and should make us so empathetic, so understanding and compassionate of those who still are excluded by attitudes or laws which would make them second class and would make them cower in fear of themselves and who they are.

“As a person, knowing Joe and knowing what he’s suffered and how he has put that suffering deep into his heart and made it a resource that comes out as empathy and compassion.

“He’s got human rights in his DNA,” McAleese concluded.

Rights for LGBTQ+ Families

Speaking from his home in Kalamazoo, Michigan, State Rep Jon Hoadley spoke about what the US Election means to him on a personal level.

“Three years ago, my partner Kris found out that he had a chronic condition.

“I came home from the legislature one day and found him on the bathroom floor barely able to move. He had been vomiting for 18 hours, we had a fight about whether we were going to call an ambulance or not because ambulances are expensive.

“We got him to the hospital eventually and they stabilised his condition and he said ‘I’m still seeing double’ but they said ‘that’s not what you came in for’ and they discharged him.”

Jon said that if Kris didn’t have health insurance, his medication would cost over $7,000 per month.

“Anything from major policy decisions that will be regarding the Supreme Court justice appointments, to things like strengthening rules and administrative decisions protecting non-discrimination language in bills that already exist: to make sure we don’t have discrimination in our healthcare.

“To just lift up and honour LGBTQ+ families that have been so easy to discriminate against because of ‘license to discriminate’ laws that currently exist in so many states.

“Vice President Joe Biden has already said that he’s not going to stand for discrimination but that he is going to stand up for equality, LGBTQ+ voters are front and centre in his campaign. I think that’s exactly the kind of leadership we need to see.

“Not just that we’re gonna prevent bad things from happening but he’s gonna champion that good things happen too.”

Ireland’s impact on the world stage

Evan Wolfson spoke about the pertinent action of getting out to vote.

“If we get a large enough turnout, I really do believe the wheel of the majority will continue the progress we have made over the last many decades.

“That is progress not just through the courts or a set of people arguing but has actually moved the hearts and minds of the American people. We now need to translate that into hands on the levers of power.”

Christine Quinn, who has strong roots in Cork, says that with many Americans having such a strong connection with the Irish, Ireland could have a significant impact in making sure their voice is heard in this election.

Recognising the interconnectivity between Ireland and the US, Quinn said:

“When Ireland passed Marriage Equality when Ireland passed the ban on abortion, everybody would say, ‘Ireland? How’s that possible?’

“It’s possible because the heart and soul of Ireland is one that beats for justice, equality and fair treatment.

“When Ireland took those actions it moved the movement for LGBTQ+ rights and for reproductive justice forward.

“I say that because I think we as countries rise and fall together. I’m proud of Vice President Biden being outspoken on LGBTQ+ issues but also on the peace process.

“That’s something that we know has not completed its work and its journey and we need a President that stands up for that.”

Quinn’s maternal grandmother arrived to the US from Cork on the Titanic. She was one of the only third class female passengers to survive the Titanic disaster.

Quinn said while she rarely spoke about the Titanic, she is quoted as saying “When the other girls dropped to their knees to pray, I took a run for it.”

Quinn says that this is what Joe Biden is doing now and that he should be supported in that run.

‘You may not have a vote – but you have a voice.’

Concluding the discussion, Zappone said that having heard the voices of those who champion equality on both sides of the Atlantic, “you should now know the importance of this moment, and the importance to act.

“Voting is underway in many States – tens of thousands are being cast every day.

“Please this evening send a direct message, a skype or a text to whoever you know in the United States. Tell them what is at stake. Tell them we need their support. Tell them we need their vote.

“You may not have a vote – but you have a voice. Use it. Do Not Be A By-Stander.”

Watch The US Election and the global impact on LGBTQ+ rights in full below:

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