Hillary Clinton's revisionist comments on DOMA and DADT roil the LGBT community [Updated]


Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday made controversial comments about the Defense of Marriage Act and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that LGBT community leaders called revisionist.

Mrs. Clinton defended the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, in 1996, which limited federal marriage rights to unions of one man and one woman, and the institution of the Clinton administration policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," or DADT, which officially forbade gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military. 

In an interview with Rachael Maddow, a liberal political talk show host on the MSNBC cable news network, Mrs. Clinton described the regressive official actions of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, on LGBT civil rights issues as preventing worse anti-LGBT policies from taking effect, saying of President Clinton's passage of DOMA :  "It was a defensive action."

Mrs. Clinton, a former U.S. Senator from New York and the former U.S. Secretary of State under President Barack Obama's first term in office, defended her husband having signed DOMA into law under the improbable rationale that LGBT discrimination forces would have enacted a Constitutional amendment to codify marriage discrimination against same sex couples, an excuse that many LGBT leaders denounced as false and revisionist.

A request made by Progress Queens to Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign for an interview for this article was not answered.

Prominent LGBT individuals in the media and politics have criticised Mrs. Clinton's remarks, including David Mixner, Hillary Rosen, and Michael Signorile.  

The unusual unity in responding to Mrs. Clinton's remarks have followed decades of time, when LGBT community leaders were divided between activists, who were pressuring the Clinton administration for an end to discrimination, and political loyalists, who quietly enabled or defended the Clintons' regressive record on LGBT civil rights.

During the 1990's, several LGBT political loyalists, including Richard Socarides, enabled the Clinton administration to enact DOMA and DADT.

Elizabeth Birch, the former head of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy organisation which generally coördinates it advocacy campaigns with Democratic Party officials in Washington, waited several years before denouncing in an editorial column for The Huffington Post the Constitutional amendment excuse often used by the Clintons to rationalise the enactment of DOMA.

In an interview last summer, marriage equality advocate Evan Wolfson admitted that politics was a factor in President Clinton's passage of DOMA and confirmed that some LGBT political loyalists were pressuring marriage equality advocates to "take a hit for political reasons."  Mr. Wolfson's remarks appeared in an interview  published by The New York Times magazine.

"Hillary is re-writing history," said Pauline Park, chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy.  "DOMA and DADT were not signed into law by Bill Clinton in order to help the LGBT community.  It's double-speak.  It's almost Orwellian." 

Ms. Park, an internationally-prominent transgender civil rights advocate, told Progress Queens that presidential campaign politics was influencing Mrs. Clinton's refusal to honestly address the Clinton record on LGBT civil rights.

"She is desperate to corral LGBT support," Ms. Park said of Mrs. Clinton, adding that, "Hillary and Bill Clinton have a shameful record of anti-LGBT legislating and actions, and they must be held accountable for it.  The only honest response Hillary could give is, 'Look, it benefited us politically at the time. It was politically-expedient for me and Bill, and that's why we supported DADT and DOMA, and that's why he signed it into law.' That's the only honest response she could give."

Former U.S. Secretary of State  Hillary Rodham Clinton  made remarks that many LGBT community leaders have called  revisionist  about the Clinton administration record on  LGBT civil rights .  Source :  MSNBC.com

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made remarks that many LGBT community leaders have called revisionist about the Clinton administration record on LGBT civil rights.  Source :  MSNBC.com

Contrary to Mrs. Clinton's assertion that DOMA was signed into law to prevent a Constitutional amendment from being enacted, many LGBT leaders have pointed to President Clinton using his passage of DOMA in radio advertisements targeted at religious conservatives to shamelessly cull political support during the 1996 federal election cycle in which President Clinton touted his opposition against marriage equality.

Of the false Constitutional amendment excuse, Ms. Park said that this was an example why many voters on the political left could not trust the Clintons.

"There is no way that a Constitutional amendment would have been adopted," Ms. Park said, adding that there was never a real prospect of such an amendment.  

Ms. Park speculated that if President Clinton, at that time then, had wanted to be principled about his support for LGBT civil rights, he should have allowed the Republican-controlled Congress to pass legislation codifying discrimination against the LGBT community.  Even if President Clinton had vetoed such legislation and the Congress overrode his veto, thereby creating the same result for President Clinton's religious conservative supporters (during that time when President Clinton still enjoyed some support from religious conservatives), then President Clinton would have at least demonstrated himself to be principled.  However, those were not the political calculations made by the Clinton administration at that time then.

"This is the thing :  The reason why progressives don't think that Hillary and Bill Clinton stand for anything is precisely because they flip-flop and do what's politically-expedient at the time, which then turns out to complicate things when public opinion shifts.  When public opinion was broadly in favor of DOMA, they supported it, and Bill Clinton signed it into law.  Don't you think that if it had been a Republican, who signed DOMA into law, … suppose it was George W. Bush, who signed DOMA into law, and Jeb is obviously running in the Republican primary.  Well, don't you think Hillary would use that against Jeb ?  Of course she would. " 

Of the rare unity by some LGBT political operatives in denouncing Mrs. Clinton's remarks, Ms. Park said that the Washington-friendly political operatives' standing with the LGBT community was on the line if political operatives did not denounce Mrs. Clinton's revisionist remarks.

"I guess it's an indication of how outrageous Hillary has to get for Hillary-heads … to actually criticise her publicly," Ms. Park said, adding that, "These are partisan Democrats, who have stuck with Hillary through thick and thin, and I suspect that the reason that they are criticising her publicly is because they realise that their credibility may be at stake."  

As noted by Ms. Maddow, the MSNBC political talk show host, a consequence of the Clinton record on LGBT civil rights was that activists had to mount a decade-long fight to overturn the regressive de jure discrimination policies of the Clinton administration.  Some LGBT civil rights activists, notably U.S. Army Lt. Daniel Choi, faced vindictive retaliation by federal prosecutors under the influence of the "White House's culture of animus against protesters generally," in Lt. Choi's own words, over his activism to overturn DADT.  Ms. Park noted that marriage rights were denied to same sex couples for 15 years as a result of the Clinton record.

In 1996, when controversy was peaking over the Clinton administration's machinations on LGBT civil rights, Maureen Dowd, author of the Liberties column for The New York Times, wrote about President Clinton, "He moves from the left wing to the right wing because what he really believes in is the West Wing."

Which describes how some progressive critics describe Mrs. Clinton.

Ms. Park added that Mrs. Clinton's lack of principles can also be observed in other major issues, including in Mrs. Clinton's vote to authorise former President George W. Bush's war against Iraq.  Despite assurances from Bush administration officials that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, those assurances never panned out, leading many to assert that the nation was deceived into launching an unnecessary, unaffordable, and endless war in the Middle East.  For her part, Mrs. Clinton now describes her vote authorising the Iraq war as a "mistake," according to a press report published by POLITICO, a remarkable turn-about from Mrs. Clinton's failed 2008 presidential campaign, when she defended her vote for the Iraq war.

Despite unity by some of Mrs. Clinton's former enablers, there still remain LGBT activists, who are still defending Mrs. Clinton.