Joseph R. Biden Jr. doesn’t drink alcohol, but on Tuesday afternoon he stood behind the bar at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, buying a round of beers.
Against a backdrop of flags celebrating L.G.B.T. pride and equality, Mr. Biden pulled out a credit card to pay for about 10 beers for a crowd gathered at the historic Greenwich Village site. He was visiting less than two weeks before the 50th anniversary of the police raid on the Stonewall that led to days of street protests and helped fuel the rise of the gay-rights movement.
In his campaign for president, Mr. Biden has faced steep skepticism from the left wing of his party over his perceived centrism on issues ranging from abortion rights to his dealings with Republicans. But the former vice president was ahead of many Democrats — including President Barack Obama — in announcing his support for same-sex marriage in 2012. On this stop to the Stonewall, which has been designated a national monument, Mr. Biden appeared to revel in that legacy.
As he worked his way through the room — shaking hands, taking selfies, writing one young patron a note to excuse his absence from class — Mr. Biden also highlighted his own support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He repeatedly told the story of his father, decades ago, saying of a gay couple: “Joey, it’s simple. They love each other.”
Mr. Biden had supporters in the room, including Tim Gill, a prominent gay-rights activist who has financially supported Mr. Biden both in politics and through the now-suspended Biden Foundation. Also at the Stonewall was Henry R. Muñoz III, the former national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, whose wedding Mr. Biden officiated.
“He told me many years ago that I wouldn’t have to wait to take my seat at the table as a person of color, as a gay person,” Mr. Muñoz said. “And he has, over the course of the years that I’ve known him, always delivered on that process, and today’s visit, I think, is an example of that.”
Most of the Democratic presidential candidates have been vocal in their support for gay rights, and some have released plans to expand L.G.B.T. equality, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas. Mr. O’Rourke posted photos on Facebook of his trip to the Stonewall last week.
Mr. Biden’s campaign did not advise the news media of his visit to the Stonewall, but in a brief appearance before a few reporters who had gathered there, he said that the country still had a “long way to go” on expanding L.G.B.T. equality, pointing to issues of workplace discrimination.
“It’s wrong,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s simply, simply wrong.”
Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill, arrived at the dimly lit bar after Mr. Biden appeared at two fund-raisers for his presidential campaign earlier in the day in Manhattan.
Unlike Mr. Biden, she was spotted cradling a beer.