How Hillary Clinton evolved on gay marriage


Hillary Clinton has endorsed gay marriage after years of questions on the issue. (Getty Images)

On Monday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out in support of gay marriage. It was hardly an out-of-blue announcement; on the contrary, it's been anticipated for years. Like President Obama, Clinton has long been "evolving" on this issue, under pressure from gay rights activists. A look back at that evolution:

* In 1999, running for Senate in New York, Clinton told a group of gay contributors that she considered her husband's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy a failure. "I don't believe 'don't ask, don't tell' has worked," she said. She also voiced support for gay domestic partnership benefits.

* Clinton said in January 2000 that marriage does not include gay unions: "Marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman." She said she would have voted for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, but again said she supported partnership benefits for same-sex couples. Gay groups expressed disappointment in her position.

* In October of 2000, Clinton made clear in response to a question from a gay voter that she did back civil unions -- implemented in Vermont that fall. "I don't support gay marriages, but I do support extending benefits to couples, domestic partner benefits," she said, "and the kind of civil union that Vermont adopted seems to be the way to create that opportunity for people."

* When asked about the Defense of Marriage Act in 2003, a Clinton spokesman told The New York Post that "this issue is in a state of evolution."

* In early 2006, the head of the group Empire State Pride Agenda called for a boycott of a gay and lesbian Clinton fundraiser over her opposition to gay marriage. "In the 2008 cycle, I don't think any candidate can come out and say, 'I am for gay marriage,'" gay activist and Clinton supporter Ethan Geto said in the senator's defense.

* In October of 2006, meeting with gay elected officials, Clinton appeared to back away from her past description of marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. She defended the Defense of Marriage Act as a strategic decision that helped prevent a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and said she would not oppose a law legalizing gay marriage in New York. ''I support states making the decision," she said. As for her own views, she said that after "long conversations" with friends "the way that I have spoken and I have advocated has certainly evolved."

* Clinton dodged when asked March of 2007 whether she agreed with Gen. Peter Pace, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whether homosexuality was immoral. "I am going to leave that to others to conclude," she said. (Her presidential primary rival, then-Sen. Barack Obama, also dodged). After gay rights activists reacted with anger, Clinton put out a statement saying “I disagree with what he said and do not share his view, plain and simple."

* Clinton filled out a Human Rights Campaign questionnaire in June of 2007 in which she called for the repeal of the DOMA provision that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages in states that recognize them. However, she did not come out against the part of the act that allows states to refuse to recognize gay marriages from other states.

* In August of 2007, Clinton reaffirmed her opposition to gay marriage but tried to cast it in a less negative light. "I prefer to think of it as being very positive about civil unions," Clinton said at a forum held by the gay and lesbian television station Logo. "It's a personal position ... we have made it clear in our country that we believe in equality. How we get to full equality is the debate we're having, and I am absolutely in favor of civil unions with full equality ... of benefits, rights, and privileges."

* In June of 2011, Clinton hailed the “historic vote in New York” to legalize same-sex marriage. “I've always believed that we would make progress because we were on the right side of equality and justice," she said. But she did not come out in support of gay marriage herself.

* In December of 2011, Clinton gave a speech that she referenced in her video Monday. “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights," she declared in Geneva on International Human Rights Day. "No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity."

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Politics
Next Story
Jon Cohen · March 18, 2013