Long before becoming a president, 31 years ago, the then-senator Joe Biden visited IUP.
As expected, many things changed during this period. IUP saw nine presidential changes within the university, and the U.S. saw six. America witnessed remarkable yet tragic moments as the War on Terrorism began, the Internet and smartphones were introduced to society, and so many other changes impacted the average citizen. Naturally, those changes also led some politicians to shift their positions on certain issues – Biden included.
The most eye-catching of those changes has been his position on LGBTQIA rights. During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden was an active advocate for LGBTQIA rights. He constantly criticized former President Donald Trump for his anti-gay and anti-trans rhetoric.
Before that, in 2012, Biden spiraled down a controversy after he declared his support for gay marriage – an issue that the Obama presidential campaign avoided touching on.
“Look, I am the vice president of the United States of America,” Biden said in his 2012 interview with NBC. “The president sets the policy, [but] I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.”
But that is not how the president has always felt toward gay marriage.
In 1996, six years after visiting IUP, Biden voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, a national law that, for nearly 20 years, denied same-sex couples the same rights as other couples.
This switch represents a change that happened in America itself. In the ‘90s, there was plenty of misinformation and hatred amid the HIV/AIDS epidemic that started in the previous decade; many Americans wrongly blamed the LGBTQIA community for the epidemic.
According to a Pew Research article, acceptance of homosexuality by people in the U.S. rose from 44 percent in 1997 to 72 percent in 2019, a drastic change.
Perhaps this is why Biden’s change in viewpoint is not met with skepticism.
“Did Joe Biden evolve on the issue of marriage like most of the rest of the country? Yes,” Sarah McBride, the first transgender person to become a state senator and long-time friend of Beau Biden, said to the New York Times. “Frankly, we should want leaders with big minds and open hearts who are willing to evolve and, in the case of Joe Biden, bring the country along.”
LGBTQIA rights, however, is not the only issue Biden claimed to change in point of view.
More controversially, in September 2020, he said yet again that his vote in favor of declaring war on Iraq was a mistake. This time, his vote was not necessarily backed by public support.
Although the Sept. 11 attacks spiked a rise in public support for intervention in the Middle East, by 2004 (a mere year and a half after war was declared in 2002), around 67 percent of Americans believed that the U.S. went to war based on incorrect assumptions, according to a poll by the Washington Times.
Last year, Biden expressed regret for that vote, while explaining that he didn’t expect war and that he was told by the Bush administration that the then-president wanted only to use military force to strengthen the U.S.’s position in the U.N. security council to get weapons inspectors back into Iraq and force Saddam Hussein to disarm.
This claim is supported by both Bush’s address to the nation, in which he claimed that the measure did not mean war was imminent, and Biden’s speech before voting.
“I believe passage of this, with strong support, is very likely to enhance the prospects that the secretary of state will get a strong resolution out of the (U.N.) Security Council,” Biden said before voting.
Nonetheless, his vote was still met with criticism during his presidential campaign, especially from Senator Bernie Sanders, who, even at the time, voted to oppose the measure.
More recently, Biden has expressed another possible change in views. For a long time, the president defended the filibuster rule, but last month, he told ABC that he supported changing the filibuster rules and bringing back the talking-filibuster, a measure that requires a senator to remain speaking on the Senate floor if he or she opposes a bill.
Currently, if a bill does not meet a 60-vote threshold, it can be blocked from passing by any senator, but they are not required to discuss or argue the case. They simply declare their opposition to the bill, leading it to “die” as it cannot be voted.
Upon taking a look in how both the U.S. and Biden changed in this relatively short period of 30 years, one can notice that the only thing that is constant is change. Only time will tell what changes the next generation will bring to society and government.