Although some like to debate it, Hillary Clinton is not only a longtime ally to the LGBT community, many also see her as a hero. For me, that’s because she’s been knocked down, dusted herself off and gotten back in the fight again. That quality in her is similar to the journey of many LGBT people and the source of a strong connection.
There is also a great deal of substance to justify her overwhelming support from our community. Papers from the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock show that she and her staff were steadfast advocates for LGBT-friendly policies within her husband’s administration. As a senator from New York, she fought for hate crimes and employment nondiscrimination legislation. She also led the fight against efforts to put forth a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality.
When Hillary was Secretary of State, she took a leading role among federal agencies in advancing LGBT policy within the State Department. She mandated that same-sex partners of diplomats be granted the same rights and protections as spouses of straight diplomats, making it far safer to keep families together. She also made it possible for our transgender brothers and sisters to change the gender on their passports to match their true gender. She ensured that all gay employees of the State Department would be able to add their same-gender partners to insurance benefits. While we waited for the president to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies, she took steps to push contractors to the U.S. Agency for International Development to do just that, a significant share of federal contracting dollars.
Around the world, she also showed tremendous leadership on LGBT equality. It was just over four years ago that she gave the most expansive speech on LGBT rights before a global audience at a meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights. It rivaled in significance her speech at the 1994 UN Conference on Women in Beijing. Indeed, she used a variation of her famous line from that conference to declare that “Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”
That speech sent ripples all around the globe. But she didn’t stop there. She also required American embassies to meet with the local LGBT communities wherever they were. She herself often met with local LGBT advocates, sometimes in secrecy in order to protect them. Embassies are also now required to prepare an annual report on the state of LGBT rights in the countries in which they serve. All of these advances have served to boost the visibility of LGBT communities around the world and to raise the expectations of how nations treat them.
Any day now, Hillary will unveil her LGBT platform for her presidential campaign. If her statements thus far are an indication, she will acknowledge that we have much work left to do. Already, she has gone on the record with the most pro-LGBT policies of any major candidate in history. She is surrounded by LGBT staff at all levels and this shows in the sensitivity her campaign has shown to policy, special events, days of significance and the visibility of LGBT people in her campaign.
Not only did her announcement video feature a gay and a lesbian couple, her campaign just released a video featuring LGBT couples embracing and kissing. This was a significant first for a presidential candidate. I have no doubt that her LGBT platform will earn even greater support in our community.
The first votes in the presidential race will be cast in just over a month. The LGBT community has come a long way in the past few years and we must stay vigilant to ensure the work that remains is accomplished as soon as possible. Our best chance to do this is to elect a super advocate to the White House. Hillary Clinton has fought for us, is fighting for us and will continue to fight for us.
Lane Hudson is a D.C.-based Democratic Party activist.