How soon people forget what staunch allies Bill and Hillary Clinton have been to the LGBT community and how hard they fought during their White House years (and today) for funding for HIV/AIDS. Clinton was steadfast in fighting for money for finding a cure for this horrible disease and just like today, he had to battle a hostile Republican Congress to get funding for these programs. Without Bill and Hillary Clinton’s leadership in the 1990’s, there are likely millions of people who would not be alive today.
Bill Clinton’s administration increased funding for AIDS programs by 358% for one department and 150% for another. They initiated a multitude a programs to provide drugs and housing and against discrimination. Bill Clinton might not have won his battle to open the military to openly gay service, as he set out to do, but his compromise policy known as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell banned the military from asking soldiers whether they were gay and he also ended the ban on LGBT security clearances and he appointed the first openly gay federal judges. He did all this despite a hostile Republican Congress.
The Bernie brigade recycles partial quotes of Hillary defending “traditional marriage” without mentioning it’s from a speech she gave AGAINST banning gay marriage (the 2004 anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment). It is sad, but ironic that the video people keep posting as “proof” that Hillary is anti-gay marriage is actually her fighting to keep gay marriage legal! The people manufacturing these smears are beyond disgusting in their ill treatment of our long time friend.
Where was Bernie Sanders when Republicans tried to pass this federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage? In 2006 Sanders went on record opposing gay marriage in Vermont. Why does Sanders get a pass?
Hillary Clinton has been a leader on LGBT issues in both the Senate and in the State Department. Some folks seem to focus on marriage equality as if that was the only item on the LGBT agenda. What about Hate Crimes? Hillary was there fighting to get LGBT included. What about ENDA – the Employee Non Discrimination Act? She was there fighting for this long overdue bill to prohibit LGBT discrimination in all federal employment and contracting. Hillary Clinton twice sponsored adding LGBT to the Civil Rights Act alongside race and religion as protected categories.
Bernie Sanders sponsored no legislation for gay civil rights. He once signed a gay pride proclamation in 1983 and his fans seem to think that that was to height of the gay rights movement. Mind you, he didn’t actually go to the parade – or any other gay pride event. Bernie also signed a proclamation declaring marriage as only between a man and a woman.
“Gay Rights Are Human Rights.” Hillary Clinton
Clinton’s record on our issues earned her the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights organization in the country. Of course Sanders denounced the endorsement even as he hoped to get their nod. He even bungled their name, calling this venerable organization the “Human Rights Fund”. It seems if you were so hot and heavy for gay rights you’d know the group’s actual name. But Bernie is only a distant supporter of gay rights. Not like Clinton, who works regularly with these groups on issues important to our community.
Here’s what HRC had to say about Hillary Clinton’s national and international LGBT record:
“Clinton has a long record as a champion for LGBT rights both in the U.S. and, notably, around the globe. As Secretary of State, Clinton became the first in her position to robustly advocate for LGBT equality throughout the world, making a historic and forceful speech to the United Nations declaring that “gay rights are human rights.” In the Senate, she helped lead on bills to protect LGBT workers from employment discrimination, and had a strong record on key votes and legislation that mattered to LGBT Americans.”
Before President Clinton, no US President gave a damn about gay rights or the mounting death toll in the LGBT community from AIDS. This changed dramatically in 1992 upon the election of Bill Clinton.
Clinton set the tone for his presidency by inviting the N.A.M.E.S. Project to include sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in his 1993 inaugural parade. In his two terms in office, Bill Clinton never wavered in wrangling money in his budgets for programs caring for the sick or to preserve vital research funding for effective treatments and to find a cure.
How soon we seem to forget who our friends are!
When the AIDS Memorial Quilt was displayed in the National Mall in 1992 it contained 40,000 panels and covered 24 football fields. Here’s a photo from NPR of the President and First Lady viewing one of the panels.
According to a recent story on NPR, from 1987 until today, the Quilt has grown to 48,000 panels – signifying the deaths of 94,000 people. Thru the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Quilt grew at a rate of 11,000 panels per year. Today it has dwindled to 1-2 a day.
Maybe this is the reason for the amnesia?
In 1996, for the very last time, the AIDS Memorial Quilt in all its entirety was laid out across the Washington Mall. It has since grown too large to be displayed all in one place.
My friend Keith Molter shares his story of being at the Quilt in Washington DC in 1996 when by chance he witnessed Bill and Hillary Clinton visit the Quilt seeking out a specific quilt made in honor of a longtime friend of hers. Keith recalls:
It was stone silent on the vast Washington Mall. No fanfare. No hoopla. They simply went and we had stumbled upon it.
Silence. Stillness. They got out of their motorcade hand in hand and walked through the Quilt.
It was THE first time it was ever acknowledged by anyone of any higher level in government. They stood. They prayed. They looked at a few other panels. They wiped tears. We were 100 feet away. As they turned to leave, the still silence was broken by a squelching sound, like an animal in deep pain. It was me screaming “Thank you!” through my sobs, my voice cracking. They both turned. He put his hand up in a still wave and nodded his head -his mouth doing that mouth/chin thing he does. They turned and left.
I was there. They were there – maybe too late for some that we lost. But they were there as soon as they could – once the country elected two people who actually cared.
Here’s Hillary Clinton reminiscing about visiting the AIDS Memorial Quilt in a speech at the 2012 International AIDS Conference.
Another friend who was “there”, Robert Sandy, recalls those exciting 1990’s when our President first invited the LGBT community to the national table.
“I am old enough to remember that Bill Clinton’s VERY first act as President was to try to overturn the ban on gays in the military. HIS FIRST ACT. Of course America nearly imploded then and calls and letters were hitting the White House at a rate of 15 to 1 against.”
“I am also old enough to remember that most of the gay community sat that fight out and then had the audacity to bitch about the outcome. Clinton used up much of his political capital in that fight. But, you know, why remember how shit really went down?”
Well Robert Sandy, I remember it all too! Especially the thrill of having a President and First Lady who for the first time declared themselves publicly to be in our corner.
I guess it’s easy to forget those days when the stakes aren’t nearly as high. I’m voting for Hillary because I remember that she was a friend who was “there” for us, and – most of all – because I remember what she did for my community and for my country as the First Lady, as Senator and as Secretary of State. She can step into the Oval Office as smoothly as into one of her trademark pantsuits.
Thank you Keith and Robert and Bill and Hillary Clinton and the countless others who worked not only for our rights but who also fought for the very lives of our LGBT brothers and sisters!
Bernie Sanders supporters tout his 1983 Gay Pride proclamation as proof of his LGBT bonafides over Hillary’s actual record of fighting for the LGBT agenda. Well, guess what Bernie Bots and Bros, Sanders also signed a Mayoral proclaimation declaring marriage “a union between a man and a woman”. Cue the cognitive dissonance!