I recently saw a comment on social media from someone I don’t know, and that comment drove this home for me:
“Do you actually believe that a woman who three years ago explained that the fundamental description of a marriage is between a man and woman, but suddenly changes her mind to all of a sudden be open to LGBTQ rights REALLY is an advocate for you? Wake up.”Let’s go to the historic record: in 2000, Hillary Clinton endorsed civil unions, such as Vermont had just enacted. In 2006, Bernie Sanders, a supporter of his state’s civil unions, opposed Vermont moving toward full marriage equality. That same year, Clinton was expressing support for her state, New York, enacting marriage equality, and she added that her own views had “certainly evolved”.
By 2009, Bernie had become a supporter of marriage equality, and in 2013, Clinton did, too, after she left the State Department. However, in 2011, she delivered remarks in Switzerland on Human Rights Day, declaring, “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
The point of the history lesson is that President Obama, Hillary Clinton AND Bernie Sanders all "evolved" on marriage equality and LGBT advocacy. But the point ISN'T who was first on LGBT issues or support, it's that they evolved.
I became an LGBT activist around 35 years ago, and back then it was impossible to imagine that ANY national politician would EVER advocate for LGBT people. Yet we kept pushing for them to do so, and, decades later, look where we are!
If for decades we've been pushing for politicians to embrace the LGBT communities and our issues, then we ought to celebrate politicians' evolution and not make a dismissive rankings list based on who supported marriage equality/LGBT issues first/earliest.
What truly matters here is that Obama, Clinton, and Sanders all evolved and now fully embrace the LGBT communities, while the Republicans have, if anything, pushed us ever farther away. Sure, there was a time in the past when Democrats were mostly no better than Republicans of the day, but those days are NOT these days, and it hasn’t been those days for at least a decade, nearly two.
To paraphrase one of my favourite Maya Angelou quotes: When they knew better, they did better—and ALL the Democrats do better than nearly ANY of the Republicans, end of story.
So, I absolutely trust Hillary Clinton to advocate for LGBT people, and if Bernie Sanders had been able to win the Democratic nomination, I’d absolutely have trusted him, too. The problem is not with Democrats, it’s with Republicans, and it is they who are our fiercest opponents and adversaries. It’s important to always remember that fact.
This post began as a social media comment, but has been extensively expanded from that original version.