February 6, 2016 at 12:56 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Clinton, Sanders speak at N.H. Democratic Party fundraiser

Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders, gay news, Washington Blade

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on Feb. 5, 2016, spoke at a fundraiser for the New Hampshire Democratic Party in Manchester, N.H. (Washington Blade photo of Clinton by Damien Salas; Blade photo of Sanders by Michael Key)

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on Friday were among those who spoke at a fundraiser for the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

Sanders told the thousands of people who attended the event at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, the state’s largest city, that he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

“That was not a popular vote at that time,” he said as his supporters cheered. “I believed then and I believe now that people have a right to love who they want, regardless of their gender.”

Clinton in her speech referenced “discrimination against the LGBT community.”

“We need to pull our country together to make sure there is justice, dignity and equity for all our citizens,” she said. “I want to break down all the barriers holding Americans down from achieving their dreams.”

Sanders said he would reform the country’s “disastrous trade system” if he were to become president. The self-described Democratic Socialist also blasted pharmaceutical companies for increasing the cost of prescription drugs.

“Your days of raising prices off the charts are over,” said Sanders.

Clinton made a similar point, describing pharmaceutical companies’ raising prescription drug prices as “greed.”

The fundraiser took place a day after former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli appeared before a congressional committee that is investigating drug price increases.

Shkreli last fall sparked widespread outrage when his company raised the cost of Daraprim, a drug used to treat an infection that can cause brain damage in people with AIDS, more than 5,000 percent.

Sanders subsequently donated the $2,700 campaign contribution that he received from Shkreli to Whitman-Walker Health. Federal authorities last December arrested Skhreli on securities fraud charges.

Shaheen criticizes Ayotte voting record in U.S. Senate

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) this year, used her speech at the fundraiser to attack her Republican opponent. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley, who is openly gay, also criticized Ayotte.

“I really am tired of having my vote cancelled in the U.S. Senate,” said Shaheen.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Debbie Stabenaw (D-Mich.) were among the elected officials from across the country who attended the fundraiser. Maryland Congressman Paul Sarbanes as also present alongside U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Frank Vallone (D-N.J.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).

Actress Meredith Baxter and Out and Equal CEO Selisse Berry also attended the fundraiser.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Democrats “have a lot to be proud of under” President Obama. Sanders supporters who are presumably upset over the debate schedule they contend favors Clinton audibly booed the Florida congresswoman when her name was mentioned.

“We have stood fast to our core values, even in the face of heated rhetoric from the far right,” said New Hampshire Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster, who supports Clinton. “We will never, never give up our fight for workers, seniors, veterans and a women’s right to choose.”

Former N.H. governor notes same-sex marriage law

New Hampshire Executive Councilman Chris Pappas, state Sen. David Pierce (D-Etna) and Somersworth Mayor Dana Hilliard are among the state officials who attended the fundraiser alongside Shawn O’Connor, an openly gay congressional candidate.

Members of the New Hampshire Gay Men’s Chorus received a standing ovation after they sang the national anthem and “God Bless America” to open the event. The New Hampshire Democratic Party from the podium acknowledged Claire Lucas, a Washington-based Democratic Party activist who raises money for Clinton, and the Human Rights Campaign, which had a skybox for the fundraiser.

Former New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch referenced his support of nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Lynch signed the state’s same-sex marriage law that took effect in 2010.

“Together without the prompting of a court order, we passed gay marriage in New Hampshire,” said Lynch to cheers.

New Hampshire’s anti-discrimination law includes sexual orientation, but not gender identity.

Sanders remains ahead of Clinton in N.H.

The fundraiser took place four days before the state’s primary.

A poll that Suffolk University and the Boston Globe released on Friday indicates Sanders is ahead of Clinton by a 50-41 percent margin. The survey found that Donald Trump is ahead of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the Republican primary by a 29-19 percent margin.

Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock earlier on Friday at a Clinton campaign rally in Manchester blasted Trump, Rubio and other GOP presidential candidates as “extreme.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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