Speaking for myself and only myself, I feel as though it’s actually a positive development that gay and transgender issues are playing such a minor role in this year’s presidential election. Granted, there are still some political fights going on (particularly in North Carolina over transgender bathroom issues and discrimination regulations), and there are some fears that the Supreme Court might rethink gay marriage recognition (very unlikely). But for better or worse, gay issues are not a major narrative in this election.
But that does make me wonder why a blog post I wrote last February got a bunch of new visitors over the weekend. Maybe the title of the post helps explain: “Hillary Clinton’s Struggles on Gay Issues Are About Her Honesty, Not Her Transformation.” Like many Democratic politicians (including President Barack Obama), Clinton was not a supporter of legal gay marriage recognition until recent years. She “evolved,” is the term they’ve all decided to use.
Clinton got herself into some hot water earlier last fall defending Bill Clinton’s signing of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) back when he was president. Both Clintons have tried to argue that their support of DOMA as an attempt to prevent a possible Republican effort to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriage nationwide. They were trying to shift blame for their own support for DOMA to Republicans. The problem was that there was no Republican push for a constitutional amendment during Clinton’s administration. That failed effort didn’t come around until George W. Bush became president. LGBT activists knew this and blasted Clinton for trying to blame her own positions on Republicans. It was a revisionist history designed to try to wriggle their way out of responsibility for the passage of anti-gay legislation.
Now the new leaks of internal emails within the Clinton campaign from Wikileaks make it clear that the Clinton campaign understood that she was wrong about the history of DOMA, but she also was not likely to admit it or their role in supporting the legislation. Clinton campaign LGBT liaison Dominic Lowell noted last October that gay activists were not supporting Clinton’s story that there was a constitutional amendment being pushed by the Republicans. Dan Schwerin, director of speechwriting for the campaign, noted:
[M]y two cents is that you’re not going to get her to disavow her explanation about the constitutional amendment and this exercise will be most effective if it provides some context and then goes on offense.
And later …
I’m not saying double down or ever say it again. I’m just saying that she’s not going to want to say she was wrong about that, given she and her husband believe it and have repeated it many times. Better to reiterate evolution, opposition to DOMA when court considered it, and forward looking stance.
We’ve hit Trump repeatedly in his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the facts on everything from crime and trade because they’re politically inconvenient to the message he’s trying to sell to voters. Here, too, Clinton has been selling herself as the savior to LGBT voters for every political issue that remains (regardless of whether it needs any sort of federal involvement). But she stubbornly wants to cling to the idea that she was forced into an antigay stance, a claim that is not supported by history.
That, in a nutshell, explains why this latest round of email leaks has probably led people back to my blog post from last year about her honesty. Which version of Clinton would be president? Why are we asking that question about Trump, but not her?