Jay Godwin for LBJ Library via Flickr

Joe Biden has compared homophobia to the cancer that took his son’s life.

Speaking at the Human Rights Campaign’s National Dinner in Washington on Saturday night, the former Vice President of the United States spoke of the “terrible disease” that killed his son Beau, and said it’s just as important to challenge homophobia as it is cancer.

“My son felt so strongly about this, and Jill and I do,” he said.

“This is a disease and a plight on America, this disease of homophobia. But we can end it. We can save my grandkids, my great-grandkids, and thousands and thousands of Americans, and the rest of the world will repair to the American standard.”

Joe has been a long-time supporter of LGBTQ rights – he even officiated a same-sex wedding during his time as vice president – but he admitted during his speech that he wishes he had spoken out in favour of marriage equality sooner.

“I would not affirmatively make the case [for marriage equality], but if I was asked, I would not remain silent,” he said. Joe first publicly endorsed same-sex marriage in May 2012, which he agreed was “very late”.

Related: Watch Anne Hathaway’s powerful speech calling for authentic equality for all

He also took aim at President Trump, referring to the “forces of intolerance” that are “determined to undermine and roll back the progress” that’s been made by LGBTQ rights activists.

“Instead of using the full might of the executive branch to ensure justice, dignity and safety for all, the president uses the White House as a literal bully pulpit, callously exerting his power over those who have little or none,” he said.

You can watch Joe Biden’s full speech below.

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