January 25, 2007
Hillary chats on gay rights
Posted by: Chris
As she promised, Hillary Clinton has been hosting video chats via her web site, and on Tuesday night she talked for the first time about gay rights. As expected, the questions are pre-screened so she got a softball right across the plate, leaving her free to duck specific positions.
Her answer stuck mostly to safe territory, reaffirming her support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and a federal hate crimes act, both of which enjoy support of more than two-thirds of the public. She did mention her approval of state-issued civil unions, but polls show two-thirds of Americans back either civil unions or marriage for gay couples, so even that stand was comfortably non-controversial.
Here's the exchange (h/t: Pam's House Blend)
Eric from Kalamazoo, Michigan, says, although a diehard Democrat, I'm often disappointed by the lack of vocal support from party leaders on issues of gay and lesbian civil equality. I realize this is a divisive topic, but I would like to know, if you were elected President, would you be comfortable in addressing issues and comfortable support plans, policies or initiatives that advance and protect the civil liberties of gays and lesbians?
SENATOR CLINTON: Yes. And I feel very strongly about that. We have legislation pending in the Congress to do two things, which I support wholeheartedly. One is to end discrimination against gays and lesbians.
You know, the ENDA bill, it's called, has been pending for some time. I'm hoping that we can bring it up and perhaps pass it in this Democratic Congress because, as you may know, or as you personally have experienced, there is still discrimination in the workplace and in other settings in our society. And no matter how anyone might feel about some of these issues, which you have described, I think, as Americans, we certainly can be against discrimination against anyone.
Secondly, I'd like to see the hate crimes legislation to be amended to include any kind of hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation, which is what the language in the bill currently says. Well, I hope we can bring that up as well. Again, it's overdue. And, finally, I support civil unions. I think that this is a matter that historically has been left to the states because that's where decisions like these are made.
But I have been on record supporting civil unions and equality in relationships. You know, there's so many discriminatory effects that people may not realize. You know, you know so well, not being able to inherit, not being able to own property together in some places, not being able to visit your partner in the hospital, and so much else.
Well, I think that, again, regardless of how some have tried to politicize these issues in what I think of as a quite mean-spirited way, pitting people against their brothers and sisters and neighbors and colleagues, I think that Americans are fair minded, and we'll move forward on an agenda of equality.
An interesting side note, Hillary assumes in her answer that the questioner is gay, whether she was told that by a screener or assumes no straight person would raise the question is unclear. I don't doubt that she assumes gay rights are important only to gay people, a small if influential constituency. That sort of political calculus is, by all indications, far more important to Hillary than the issue at hand.
Liberal blogger Pam Spaulding rightfully takes "sHillary" (as she calls her) to task for not touching on the obvious: marriage. At the very least, Spaulding points out, Hillary could express concern about the lack of portability of civil unions from one state to another and the way civil rights are being put to a vote at states across the country.
I would add to that Hillary's failure to address legal recognition of gay couples at the federal level. After all, she is in her second term as a U.S. senator and seeks to be president. Right now, gay marriages and civil unions receive no federal recognition for purposes of taxes, Social Security, immigration and hundreds of other areas.
Does she support repealing the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by her husband, that blocks federal recognition of valid, state-issued marriage licenses to gay couples? And, if the "m-word" is the problem — though it's galling to hear Hillary say anything about the "sanctity" of marriage given her wink-nod approach to Bill's serial philandery — does she support legislation that would extend federal rights to gay couples with state-issued civil unions?
To date, Hillary's record on legal recognition for gay couples is, like so many other things about her, all talk and no action. Unlike John Kerry and John Edwards, she has refused to co-sponsor the Uniting American Families Act, which would extend recognition for gay relationships in the very limited area of immigration rights, allowing gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for U.S. citizenship.
If and when Hillary ever steps from behind the comfortable confines of her scripted web chats, these are the kinds of questions she needs to answer satisfactorily.
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