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Why Hillary Clinton's Gay Marriage Views Are, Indeed, Political

Francesca Bessey |
June 12, 2014 | 6:40 p.m. PDT

Senior Opinion Editor

In an interview with NPR's Terry Gross on her new memoir "Hard Choices," Hillary Clinton was quick to affirm her commitment to LGBT rights, but not so quick to actually stand up for them.

In response to Gross' persistent questioning as to whether she thought her own views on gay marriage had changed, or whether the American public had evolved to a point that she could express them clearly, Clinton finally concluded:

I think you're trying to say I used to be opposed and now I'm in favor and I did it for political reasons, and that's just flat wrong. So let me just state what I think you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record. I have a great commitment to this issue, and I am proud of what I've done and the progress we're making.

Of course, Clinton never really answered Gross' question and that drives us crazy. Of course, some 56 news outlets will probably refer to Clinton getting "testy" or losing her cool, because she's a female politician and she used the word "repudiate." But the worst part? Instead of defending marriage as a right that should be guaranteed for all Americans, Clinton spent a good chunk of her air-time applauding the "state by state" approach as a means of progress toward a nation that will one day, hopefully, be prejudice-free.

In other words, gay marriage is great but Clinton is not about to infringe upon a state's right to restrict it. In other news, however, this nonsense needs to stop.

I am so, god-awfully tired of politicians who "support gay rights" but continue to defend the autonomy of states to ignore, deny or abuse those rights.

That's like saying you're allergic to peanut butter only when it's raining.

That's like saying you're against domestic violence during the daytime, but giving people free reign to abuse their partners at night.

That's like saying you'll be there for someone, but letting them down as soon as the going gets tough. In fact, that's exactly what is happening here. Clinton, like President Barack Obama before her, is capitalizing on the gay rights movement to solidify her popularity within a demographic that tends to vote Democrat, while simultaneously avoiding confrontation with states where gay rights abuses are most egregious.

It's the equality piece liberals love with the states' rights guarantee conservatives rely on. In any case, it doesn't mean squat for the LGBT folks nationwide who continue to be denied jobs, marriage licenses, housing, adoption rights and need-specific healthcare, nor does it prevent the discrimination or violence many of these individuals experience on a daily basis.

During the interview, Clinton gave her reasons for explicitly including transgender issues in her own campaign for gay rights, stating: "LGBT includes the 'T,' and I wanted to stand up for the entire community." The inclusion of trans people and the issues affecting them is inestimably important to any queer rights campaign, and I acknowledge and appreciate Clinton for attempting to do so. But standing up for the entire queer community doesn't just mean ticking off a check box for each letter in "LGBT." It means fighting to ensure that the rights of queer people - gay, trans, what have you - wherever they may be. It is true in this case that "wherever" can really only mean where U.S. law has jurisdiction. But let's not limit that territory - and by extension, the LGBT community - even more by refusing to take action in states where it is most difficult to be queer.

So, Hillary, let me just state what I feel you are implying and repudiate it. No, you are not actually supporting gay rights if you make them optional. Human rights cannot be done by halves. That's called inequality.

Clinton was right: it's not the flip-flop that's political about her views on gay marriage.

It's the caveat.


Reach Senior Opinion Editor Francesca Bessey here; follow her here.



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