Tonight on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) read my tweet aloud. Surreal but true. It started when on Friday, when Hillary Clinton was on Maddow’s show and said that President Bill Clinton was acting defensively when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law in 1996 in order to prevent a worse piece of legislation codifying a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.
Sanders attacked Hillary on this point at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Iowa, saying that it wasn’t true — that DOMA was discriminatory plain and simple. So I tweeted.
Despite the fact that it is impossible to put the entire complicated history of the LGBT social change movement in 140 characters, Bernie Sanders seems to think that my tweet somehow validated his moral superiority to Hillary Clinton on LGBT rights.
Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, it was Bill Clinton and not Hillary Clinton that signed DOMA. Bernie Sanders was in the House of Representatives and voted against the bill, but unlike his own revisionist history, he wasn’t for same-sex marriage at the time either. He should have read the rest of my tweets on the subject.
In the twenty years since DOMA, Hillary Clinton has not only evolved on the issue, she has become a global leader in the fight for LGBT equality. As senator from New York, she pushed to repeal the ban on gays in the military and secure employment protections for LGBT Americans. As secretary of state she extended her view of human and women’s rights with a groundbreaking speech at the United Nations in 2011 declaring that “gay rights are human rights” and made the protection of gays, lesbians and transgender people a priority in her dealings with repressive regimes around the world. Perhaps most importantly, she engaged with the community – closely – for the last 25 years. Listening, learning, sometimes disagreeing but always striving and evolving and always caring.
Bernie Sanders has done none of the above. Despite being from Vermont, a state with a progressive record on LGBT rights, Sanders was a follower. He supported civil unions as a solution for as long as many leading Democrats.
In short, Bernie Sanders may like the idea that I can prod my friends the Clintons to do better and more, but he can’t compete with how often they have listened and responded. He would do better to look for another issue with which to “ensnare” Hillary, because LGBT rights just isn’t his thing.