April 20, 2007
Hillary Rosen for Hillary Rodham
Posted by: Chris
It didn't take Hillary Clinton's campaign long to respond to the gauntlet thrown down by John Edwards, who last week trumpeted a modest list of gay supporters. In response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade, the Clinton campaign came up with its own list of early gay endorsements, and not surprisingly, the list has a lot more big names, especially those affiliated with "the other HRC," the Human Rights Campaign.
At the top of that list of HRC'ers for HRC is another Hillary — minus one "L" — who's been pulling the strings behind the nation's biggest gay rights group for years. Hilary Rosen rose to prominence as the lead lobbyist for Recording Industry Association of America, the music industry's trade group, mostly railing against Napster and the trend toward downloading music without royalty payments.
But Hilary has been around the gay rights movement at least as long. She was on the HRC board back in the mid-'90s when her then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Birch, was selected as the organization's executive director. Their relationship wasn't well known at the time, and raised quite a few eyebrows when others realized the behind-the-scenes role Rosen had played at the time.
During the Birch years, Rosen was obviously among the most influential figures with the organization. When Birch was ready to leave HRC, Rosen was a part of the "Massachusetts Gay Mafia" that helped select her successor, a Bay State Democrat named Cheryl Jacques. In turn, Jacques turned to Rosen in 2004 to run HRC's lobbying effort against the Federal Marriage Amendment. It was Rosen's strategy call to position the FMA as a "distraction from real issues" like the Iraq War and the economy, rather than to fight the conservatives on the substance of gay marriage itself.
When Jacques alienated HRC staff and crashed and burned as E.D., Rosen, Birch and their longtime friend EMILY's List founder Ellen Malcolm hand-picked EMILY's List E.D. Joe Solmonese (another Massachusetts Democrat) as Jacques replacement.
In addition to Rosen for Rodham, another prominent HRC name on HRCs list of gay endorsements is Mary Breslauer, another of the "Massachusetts Gay Mafia" and co-host with Solmonese of "The Agenda," HRC's show on XM Satellite Radio. Two HRC board members — Jill Staufer and David Wilson — made Hillary's list as well.
Among the other prominent gays endorsing Hillary are:
- Billie Jean King, tennis legend
- Steve Elmendorf, president of Elmendorf Strategies and longtime top staffer for Dick Gephardt, who ran for president in '88 and '04
- Fred Hochberg, dean at Milano The New School for Management & Urban Policy, who was appointed by Bill Clinton to be a top position at the Small Business Administration
- Ilene Chaiken, creator and executive producer of television series “The L Word”
- Bruce Cohen, film and television producer
- Rebecca Haag, executive director of AIDS Action
Not surprisingly, Hillary also has the early backing from a number of prominent gay Democrats from her adopted home state of New York, including
- Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council
- Danny O'Donnell, Rosie's brother and a New York state Assembly member
- Deborah Glick, New York state Assembly member
- Tom Duane, New York state Senator
Two prominent gay Democratic activists, Jeff Soref of New York and Peter Rosenstein of Washington, D.C., also came out for Hillary. Soref is a longtime Clinton backer, but both are also outspoken in their call for full marriage equality. Hillary, of course, is on record opposing gay marriage and favoring civil unions.
But among all the names on the list, Soref and Rosenstein are probably the movement's best hope of voices inside the Clinton camp pushing the candidate to "move beyond the mushy" and on to "those devilish details" about federal legal recognition for gay couples.
Correction: This post originally identified Mirian Saez, one of Clinton's gay endorsers, as a New York member of the Democratic National Committee. Saez was a longtime resident of Washington, D.C., active in local politics here. Last fall, she moved to California and lives there. I regret the error.
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