Hillary Clinton is a complicated woman running in a country that wants its political platforms to fit on a trucker’s cap. As a candidate, she has taken a lot of heat from progressives for being late to coming around to marriage equality. She was, but it’s not that simple. If you scratch just a little beneath the surface, you’ll find a true champion of LGBT rights throughout the world.
When it comes to Clinton’s evolution on LGBT rights, there are a lot of legitimate complaints. First, her husband’s legacy, although also not that simple, is the failed military policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Bill Clinton didn’t love the policy, but it was what he saw as the best compromise at the time.
Of course, that wasn’t Hillary’s policy. In fact, in 1999, she said she was against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so let’s move on. The criticism that has the most teeth is that Hillary didn’t come around to accepting marriage equality until just three years ago, but that was only one step in a long history of support.
One accomplishment that has received scant attention is that she ushered gay rights onto the international stage. It is fair to say that without Clinton’s efforts, the global struggle for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people would not have proceeded as fast as it has in the past several years, nor would the United States be seen today as a global leader in that struggle. At the heart of these efforts was the 2011 United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, otherwise known as the UNHRC Gay Rights Resolution, an international agreement whose drafting and signing Clinton oversaw. With that document, and a sister UNHRC resolution of 2014 condemning anti-LGBT violence and discrimination, the UN has formally recognized gay rights as part of the international human rights regime.
Clinton’s gay rights crusade began within the State Department, which she transformed into one of the most—if not the most—gay-friendly bureaucracies in Washington, both in terms of its policies and its administration. This signaled a radical makeover for the stodgy institution, which under Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Clinton’s predecessors in the George W. Bush administration, had seen little drive for gay equality. Largely beholden to the Christian right and social conservatives, the Bush administration was hostile toward LGBT people and issues. As president, Bush endorsed an amendment to the federal constitution banning same-sex marriage, and his political managers used same-sex marriage as a wedge issue during his reelection campaign in 2004 with the intention of mobilizing so-called values voters in swing states like Ohio.
Source: Foreign Affairs
Her support of LGBT rights didn’t stop in international waters. She extended family leave and other government benefits to families of same-sex couples who worked in the State Department.
She fought discrimination in the State Department, despite a 1950s executive order by Dwight Eisenhower to fire all gay people, because homosexuality was considered a risk. Clinton instead recognized the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Association (GLIFAA) for its “courageous actions in the face of historic discrimination.” She also ended the firings.
Clinton even had gay pride celebrations at embassies and consulates throughout the world. Every May 17th, to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, embassies hang rainbow flags. She also made a concerted effort to be inclusive in her hiring, by, among other things, appointing six openly gay ambassadors to serve on several continents.
Here she is with her own words:
Don’t take my word, or hers, for it. She’s been endorsed by nearly every LGBT organization.