Biden Calls Political Attacks on Trans Youth 'Close to Sinful'

Joe Biden and Kal Penn
Joe Biden and Kal Penn

President Joe Biden called political attacks on transgender youth “close to sinful” in an interview broadcast on The Daily Show Monday night.

Guest host Kal Penn asked Biden about when he became a supporter of marriage equality and what he thought about conservative states across the nation moving to restrict the rights of trans people, such as banning gender-affirming care for trans youth.

On the latter, Biden said, “What’s going on in Florida is, as my mother would say, close to sinful.” Florida is one of the latest states considering a ban on transition procedures for young people.

“It’s terrible what they’re doing,” he added. “It’s not like a kid wakes up one morning and says, ‘You know, I decided I want to become a man’ or ‘I want to become a woman’ or ‘I want to change.’ What are they thinking about here? They are human beings. They love. They have feelings. They have inclinations that are... It just, to me, is, I don’t know is, it’s cruel."

Biden has often spoken out for trans youth since he became president. He told Penn that the way to counter these state actions is to “make sure we pass legislation like we passed with same-sex marriage. You mess with that, you’re breaking the law and you’re going to be held accountable.”

Kal Penn & President Biden Talk Same-Sex Marriage | The Daily Show

The legislation Biden was referring to is the Respect for Marriage Act, which he signed into law in December. It writes marriage equality into federal law, protecting it in case the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that established marriage equality nationwide. Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have expressed a desire to overturn it; a marriage equality case would have to come to the court for this to happen.

On marriage equality, Biden shared a story he’s told often, including to The Advocate. He was a senior in high school and his father was dropping him off for an errand, and the young Biden saw two well-dressed men kissing. “I turned and looked at my dad, and he said, ‘Joey, it’s simple. They love each other.’”

The president added, "It's just that simple. It doesn't matter whether it's same-sex or a heterosexual couple. You should be able to be married. What is the problem?"

He encouraged Penn, who has been engaged to his fiancé, Josh, for five years, to “get married. Do it now. Don't wait." Penn had said his aunts and uncles were disappointed that he and Josh weren’t married yet, but he noted that Cardi B has agreed to officiate when they have the wedding.

Penn, who has starred in the Harold & Kumar films and worked in the White House when Barack Obama was president, said it was an honor to have Biden as his first guest on The Daily Show.

“I’m very honored that the president of the United States is joining me as my first guest for my first night of hosting The Daily Show,” Penn told The Wrap. “He was incredibly gracious.”

Penn has stated interest in becoming the show’s permanent host now that Trevor Noah has left. The program has used several guest hosts this year.