MS. CARLSON: Last and not least, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
She was the first lady of Arkansas and later first lady of the United
States. She was elected to her first term as a senator from New York
in 2000 and re-elected last year.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Cheers, applause.)
Senator Clinton, welcome.
SEN. CLINTON: Thank you.
MS. CARLSON: I don't know if Senator Edwards is still here, but
from the last debate, let me go on the record. I like the coral
SEN. CLINTON: Thank you. (Laughs.)
MS. CARLSON: Joe is our first questioner for you, Senator.
MR. SOLMONESE: Senator, thank you for being here tonight.
You've said in past settings like this and all across the country
that you would like to repeal "Don't ask, don't tell." Now, since
2003, you've sat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the committee
that would decide this issue. Why haven't you introduced legislation
to repeal this policy?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, Joe, first, thanks for doing this and thanks
for everybody being here and having this forum.
I think the very simple answer is we didn't have a chance with
the Republican Congress and George Bush as president. And I want to
get it done when I'm president. I want to do it and have it be
successful. I don't want to try, in a Republican Congress, with a
very negative president, and have it defeated.
We're talking, now that we have a Democratic Congress, about what
steps we can take to sort of lay the groundwork so that when we do
have a change in the White House, which can't happen too soon, to suit
me -- (cheers, applause) -- we will -- we will be able to move on
But I just want to sort of put it into a broader context, because
it's one of my highest priorities. I came out against don't ask/don't
tell in 1999. It was a transitional action that was taken back at the
beginning of my husband's administration because at the time, there
was such a witch hunt going on.
And we've got some veterans over here. I saw Staff Sergeant Eric
Alva, who I have met before at HRC -- (cheers, applause) -- and I was
so glad to see him when I walked in. And you know, for people who
don't know Staff Sergeant Alva's history, he was the first Marine
Iraq , recipient of a purple heart.
And 15 years ago, he could have both been refused the opportunity
to serve, but if he had gotten into the military, under the rules that
existed at the time and the attitudes that were prevalent, he could
have been court-martialed or even accused and threatened with criminal
action if he didn't reveal names of those with whom he might have had
relationships who were serving in the military.
I think -- you know, we have moved a long way on this and other
issues, but I think it's important to recall how much of an advance
don't ask/don't tell was at the time. However, it was not implemented
appropriately. It was still used to discharge a lot of patriotic men
and women who were serving our country, often at great cost, in the
middle of a war where people were being told, "We don't need your
services anymore," including, you know, linguists and translators and
other specialty services.
But in 1999, you know, it just struck me that it wasn't working
and that what we need to do was to try to move us toward using the
Code of Military Justice and judge people on conduct, not status. No
matter whether you're, you know, gay or straight, that's the way it
should be, it should be even-handed across the entire services.
We're beginning to see some changes.
I remember very well the intense debates about this back in '93, and
honestly, it was so emotional in the military and in the Congress that
-- the Congress did pass a law, so we have to get the law repealed.
But now it's beginning to change. Former Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chairman General Shalikashvili has just come out in favor of a change.
I've noticed General Powell, who was adamantly against my husband's
efforts back in '93, has begun to say, you know, maybe we should
rethink this. So I think we will lay the groundwork, but then when
I'm president, we'll get it done, and I'm looking forward to doing
MS. CARLSON: Thank you --
MR. SOLMONESE: Changing tracks, talk to us about what is at the
heart of your opposition to same-sex marriage?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, Joe, I prefer to think of it as being very
positive about civil unions. (Laughter.) You know, it's a personal
position, and you and I have talked about it. I've talked about it
with a number of my friends here and across the country. And, you
know, for me, we have made it very clear in our country that we
believe in equality. How we get to full equality is the debate we're
having, and I am absolutely in favor of civil unions with full
equality -- full equality of -- of benefits, rights, and privileges.
And I've also been a very strong supporter of letting the states
maintain their jurisdiction over marriage, and I believe that was the
right decision, for a lot of reasons. Because it's easy, again, to
forget that just two and a half years ago we were facing all of these
referenda that were enshrining discrimination in state constitutions.
And a lot of people tried very hard to fight against them and prevent
them from being passed, but unfortunately, they were.
Now, two and a half years later, we're beginning to see other
states take different approaches. And what we were able to do -- and
I really give HRC a lot of credit for your leadership on this -- in
stopping the federal marriage amendment gave the states the breathing
room to make different decisions. So I want to proceed with
equalizing federal benefits. I want to repeal Section 3 of DOMA,
which stands in the way of the extension of benefits to people in
committed, same-sex relationships, and, you know, I will be very
strongly in favor of doing that as president.
MR. SOLMONESE: I wonder, Senator, if you can sympathize with the
frustration of this argument that it's a states' rights issue; it's a
-- in the civil rights struggle, this argument that it was a states'
rights issue was something that was typically used against people
working against us, as sort of a red herring. And so can you see
where this argument as --marriage as a states' rights issue would
resonate the same way in our community?
SEN. CLINTON: Absolutely. And you know, Joe, not only that; I
really respect the advocacy that the community is waging on behalf of
marriage. I think you're doing exactly what you need to do and should
do. And I really am very much impressed by the -- you know, the
intensity and the persistence of that advocacy.
But this has not been a long-term struggle yet, and I think it's
really clear that, you know, people in the states are moving much more
rapidly to deal with the inequalities than you would find at the
federal level. When you and I were plotting strategy to beat the
Federal Marriage Amendment, the reason we were plotting strategy is,
we were worried it was going to pass.
And you know, again, I mean, this was a terrifying prospect, that
we would have enshrined in the Constitution, for the first time ever,
discrimination. And we were, you know, very clear about what we
needed to do to get the votes in order to prevent this mean-spirited,
divisive effort, led by Karl Rove, to politicize the hopes and dreams
of, you know, so many of our fellow Americans. And we were able to
But I don't know that we could have defeated it if we had not had
I mean, that is something that, you know, has provided a great
protection against what was clearly the Republican strategy, lest by
George Bush, led by the congressional Republicans, to just cynically
use marriage as a political tool.
MS. CARLSON: Do you think that's going to come up this time --
SEN. CLINTON: No.
MS. CARLSON: -- when the Republicans are running? Is it dead as
SEN. CLINTON: You know, Margaret, that's what I am -- you know,
I'm very -- I'm very optimistic because I think that --
MS. CARLSON: I haven't heard it yet.
SEN. CLINTON: I -- I don't hear it either, and I'm as -- don't
tell anybody, but I'm running for president -- (laughter) -- and so
I'm traveling around the country a lot --
MS. CARLSON: "Don't ask, don't tell." (Light laughter.)
SEN. CLINTON: Yeah, that's right. And I -- you know, I don't
hear it, I don't feel it, I don't see it; even with the Republicans
with their various forms, you don't get the sense. Why? Because a
lot of people who were in favor of that constitutional amendment knew
better. That was a strictly cynical political ploy on their part, and
they were successful, unfortunately, in a lot of states. But I think
that now people are starting to say, well, you know, maybe we don't
want to do that, and because the Democratic Congress won't bring up
the amendment, there's really nothing for them to be rallying around.
MS. CARLSON: Thank you, Senator.
MS. ETHERIDGE: Senator, I have a personal issue here. I
remember when your husband was elected president. I actually came out
public -- publicly during his inaugural week. It was a very hopeful
time for the gay community. For the first time, we were being
recognized as American citizens. It was wonderful. We were very,
very hopeful, and in the years that followed, our hearts were broken.
We were thrown under the bus. We were pushed aside. All those great
promises that were made to us were broken.
And I understand politics. I understand how hard things are, to bring
about change. But it is many years later now, and what are you going
to do to be different than that? I know you're sitting here now; it's
a year out -- more than a year. A year from now, are we going to be
left behind like we were before?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, obviously, Melissa, I don't see it
quite the way that you describe, but I respect your feeling about it.
You know, from the moment that Bob Hattoy spoke at the Democratic
Convention, through the appointments that were made both to positions
in Cabinet agencies as well as in the White House, to the ongoing
struggle against Gingrich and the Republican majority, I think that we
certainly didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but I believe
that there was a lot of honest effort going on by the president, the
vice president and the rest of us who were trying to keep the momentum
You know, I remember when I was running for the Senate as first
lady marching in the gay pride parade in
New York City , and to a lot
of people that was just, you know, an unbelievable act, you know, and
MS. ETHERIDGE: Why not be the leader now?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think -- I think I am a -- I think I am a
leader now. And I think that we are doing a lot to not only talk
about laws, as important as they are, but to really try to change
attitudes and persuade people that they should be more open, more
respectful, more accepting.
If I were sitting where you're sitting, with all you have gone
through in the last 14 years, I'm sure I would feel exactly the same
way because, you know, not only did you bravely come out, but you've
had health challenges and so much else.
And so time can't go by slowly. You want things to move as quickly as
possible, which I, you know, understand and wish could happen as well.
But as president, I think I have an opportunity both to reverse
the concerted assault on people. It wasn't just on people's rights;
it was on people. It was pointing fingers; it was demeaning; it was
degrading; it was mean-spirited. And that will end. That is going to
be -- that is over. And when we began to -- (applause).
MS. CARLSON: Senator, we're almost out of time, believe it or
SEN. CLINTON: Oh, I can't believe it.
MS. ETHERIDGE: I know.
MS. CARLSON: Time flies when you're having a good time, but
Jonathan -- (cross talk, laughter). To be continued, Melissa.
MR. CAPEHART: Real fast, Senator, Joint Chiefs Chairman --
former Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace called homosexuality immoral.
And when you were first asked about it, you said, quote, "I'm going to
leave that to others to conclude." The next day, after much
criticism, you finally said you did not think that homosexuality was
immoral. Why didn't you say that the first time?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, it was a mistake, Jonathan. Because what I
went on to say after what you quoted was to launch an attack on "don't
ask, don't tell." You know, because my view was that as a chairman of
the Joint Chiefs, he had absolutely no right to say what he said. I
disagreed with him profoundly.
But what was really offensive is that he was in a position of
responsibility that had a direct impact on the lives of, you know,
hundreds of thousands of these young people in the military. So I
went right at him on "don't ask, don't tell." And I, you know -- you
know, you say these things. You know, somebody sticks a microphone in
front of you. And I thought, well, that's -- you know, that was
pretty good. And my friends started calling me and saying, well, you
know, that wasn't very good. (Laughter.)
So I said, you know, "Oh, you're probably right." So I immediately
got the first opportunity I could to, you know, say the whole thing.
So I just was -- I was focused on one aspect of what I thought
was really over the line. You know, Joe Blow, Joe Schmo walking down
the street can say, "Here's what I believe." You say, "Oh, well, who
cares?" The chairman of the Joint Chiefs says it, that has a direct
impact on policy. And that's what I went after. But I -- I should
have put it in a broader context.
MR. CAPEHART: Senator, would you put someone --
MS. CARLSON: Senator, we -- well, we are just about out of time,
Jonathan. I'm really sorry.
MR. CAPEHART (?): Who's anti-gay?
MS. CARLSON: I'm sorry; what, Jonathan?
MR. CAPEHART: Would you put someone on the bench who is known to
SEN. CLINTON: No. And that's why we shouldn't. (Cheers,
MS. CARLSON: Senator --
SEN. CLINTON: It's one of the reasons why I'm against Southwick
for -- (inaudible word) -- judge.
MS. CARLSON: Senator, you told the AFL-CIO on Tuesday night,
"I'm your girl." Do you want to express those same sentiments here?
SEN. CLINTON: I AM your girl! Absolutely! (Laughter, cheers,
MS. CARLSON: And you do get a closing statement, short though it
SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, I want to be a president who
really does move forward the agenda of progress and equality in our
country. That's what I have tried to do my entire life, you know, for
35 years. You know, this country, with all of its flaws, which we can
see manifest -- it doesn't move fast enough, it doesn't do what we
want it to do -- has demonstrated extraordinary resilience and a lot
of movement forward. And I think that we will see that as the years
unfold. And I want to be a part of that.
But I come to these issues, you know, not as a senator or as a
lawyer or as a presidential candidate, but as a friend of a lot of
members of the LGBT community who have, as my -- who are my age, who
have suffered through a long period of, you know, coming out, of
having to face families, of having to deal with all of the issues that
we know occur.
And I want to be a president who can clearly say to the American
people, you know, these are our friends, our children, our parents;
these are people who we want to support as they live the best lives
So it's very personal for me. And we are not going to agree on
everything, but I will be a president who will fight for you, will
work to end discrimination in the employment area, end "don't ask,
don't tell," finally get hate crimes through, do a lot of what we need
to do on HIV/AIDS and so much more. And I really hope that we can be
partners in trying to make our country a little bit better and a
little more progressive for all of us.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MS. CARLSON: Senator, I wish we had more time. Thank you.
SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs.) Me too! Yeah, me too!
MS. CARLSON: That concludes our forum, but the campaign is only
heating up from now to Election Day 2008. Stay informed, follow the
campaign and join with LGBG Americans across the nation to debate the
issues at visiblevote08.com and at hrc.org.
On behalf of Logo and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, thank
you to our panelists: Jonathan Capehart, Melissa Etheridge and Joe
Solomonese. And thank you, Senator Clinton and here in
and at home, for joining us.
Right now, CBS News on Logo reports live from right here in this
studio with a post-forum wrap-up. Stick around for the interviews and
Thank you and good night. (Applause.)