Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton objected in 2011 to the modification of State Department forms to accommodate same-sex parents overseas, saying the administration should have “retained the presumption of mother and father.”
Her apparent consternation over the change was revealed in the latest batch of emails the State Department made public on Wednesday. The former secretary of state expressed her view in a Jan. 8, 2011 email to her assistant and confidante Cheryl Mills.
Judging by the email subject line “Wash Post article,” Clinton was responding to a media report about the bureaucratic change that would have eliminated the titles “mother” and “father” with the gender neutral term “parent” in reports of overseas births.
“Who made the decision that State will not use the terms ‘mother and father’ and instead substitute ‘parent one and two’?” Clinton wrote. “I’m not defending that decision, which I disagree w and knew nothing about, in front of this Congress. I could live w letting people in nontraditional families choose another descriptor so long as we retained the presumption of mother and father. We need to address this today or we will be facing a huge Fox-generated media storm led by Palin et al.”
The email was written at a time when Clinton had yet to come out in favor of same-sex marriage. That didn’t happen until after she left the State Department in 2013.
Clinton’s opposition to the change to the State Department form was already known. A Washington Post article on the subsequent day reports the State Department rolled back the change as a result of Clinton’s order to forestall a backlash from congressional conservatives. At the time, Republicans had just taken control of the U.S. House as a result of the Tea Party victories in the 2010 election.
But the exact language by which Clinton opposed the change wasn’t made public until the State Department published the email Wednesday.
The Clinton campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the candidate regrets those words in her email. The Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said the email demonstrates Clinton’s lack of commitment to LGBT rights.
“I hate to be a told-you-so, but as with so many other matters related to LGBT equality, this latest revelation about Hillary Clinton underlines what Log Cabin Republicans has long said: Hillary Clinton cannot be trusted as a standard-bearer for the community,” Angelo said. “She’s always been a follower in the work toward LGBT rights, never a leader. How many more revelations await in future email dumps before LGBT Democrats understand that her position on these issues is largely no different from Republicans?”
Another email in the latest dump is from a transgender person, whose name is redacted by the State Department, praising Clinton for allowing transgender people to change the gender markers on their passports. The email was forwarded to Clinton, who responds by saying she’ll respond directly.
She then pivots to an unrelated different topic in the same email: “Did Bill tell you that on the receiving line of his second speech yesterday, he had the weirdest exchange ever when a woman loudly announced that her father “circumcised Bin Laden!” What a claim to fame. Love to all'”
In another email to Mills dated June 23, 2011, the then-president of Gays & Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies attempts to allay Clinton’s concerns about receiving an award from the State Department’s LGBT affinity group.
“First, we totally get the Secretary’s discomfort with the image of her employees presenting her with an award, especially one named after her,” Jon Tollefson wrote. “GLIFAA, however, is comprised of employees of all of the U.S. foreign affairs agencies — not just State — as well as even foreign embassies. We have had a history of independence throughout our nineteen years, often criticizing administrations for their lack of attention and even negative actions with regard to LGBT issues. We are so excited to have an Administration and a Secretary who are such leaders on LGBT equality and on the promotion and protection of the human rights of LGBT people.”
Those emails are but a few in a series of thousands of emails the State Department has made public as a result of a court order stemming from Freedom of Information Act requests from media organizations.
For the most part, the emails demonstrate a keen interest by the State Department in promoting LGBT rights during Clinton’s tenure. In an earlier email batch, Clinton responded to a report about human rights abuses in Iraq by saying “we should emphasize LGBT rights.”
The latest emails were made public days before Clinton is set to address the Human Rights Campaign’s board of directors and supporters in D.C. on the same day as the organization’s national dinner. Vice President Joseph Biden is set to deliver the keynote address at the dinner itself.