There was a time - not too many election cycles ago - when LGBT families were virtually invisible to politicians, and candidates sat in silence when it came time to speak out on issues important to our community or, even more importantly, when the time came to take action and expand the rights available to us.
Now, with the 2008 race for the White House, much has changed.
As Bilerico reported earlier, Senator Barack Obama recently launched an ad campaign in the LGBT media, reaching out to our community for votes as the Democratic race for the White House tightens. And on February 27, Senator Hillary Clinton sat down for an unprecedent conference call with reporters from LGBT media outlets in the critical, upcoming primary states of Texas and Ohio.
Senator Clinton's message was clear: She wants lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to hear directly from her . . . and she wants to take the time to talk with our community about how she will move us forward toward equality.
As the first article from Senator Clinton's interview with reporters in Texas and Ohio notes, "The Obama campaign declined an interview" with the Gay People's Chronicle, despite the paper "trying to get live interviews with both candidates after the Wisconsin primary on February 18."
And while there's no doubt that a Clinton or Obama presidency would arrive in the Oval Office as being the most pro-LGBT in American history, the courage in speaking up means something, too: Going on the record, explaining your own positions and making a personal, first-hand appeal for the support of our community leaves an impression.
Senator Clinton, surely aware that some tough inquires awaited her, did not shy away from the primary questions that are important to LGBT voters. She met them head-on, and spoke up, once more, for expanding our civil liberties.
Much of the article in today's Chronicle focuses on recognition of same-sex unions, and Clinton again notes that she, like Senator Obama, supports recognition of our relationships, including federal benefits for same-sex couples.
"[T]he biggest problem is the federal benefits, and I want to change the law," Clinton told reporter Eric Resnick, adding that the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligation Act is the first thing that needs to be passed. The legislation, which Clinton co-sponsored, would provide benefits to federal employees on par with those offered to married, opposite-sex couples.
Resnick also questioned Senator Clinton about a recent New Jersey report which concluded that civil unions provide a separate, "second class" status to same-sex couples. "I agree with my friend [New Jersey Governor] John Corzine that the report raises some serious concerns,” she said, reiterating that she would support repealing federal law which limits important benefits like Social Security and tax benefits to married, heterosexual couples.
But what struck me about Clinton's interview was not just that she spoke out, again, in favor of expanded benefits, but that - in the midst of a truly hectic and grueling primary campaign schedule - she made sure that our community heard from her directly. She didn't send out a campaign aide to tell the LGBT press about her positions, or just issue a press release or place an ad with talking points about the issues. She went directly to the LGBT electorate, via our community's press, to make her case to gay voters.
That's significant. It is, as far as I'm aware, the first time a presidential candidate has done so as part of a primary state strategy. And it may mark an important turning point in how the candidates view our community.
In addition to talking with major media outlets like CNN or The New York Times - where our issues rarely come into the conversation - Senator Clinton also talked with our community's media, too. It's a credit to the gay press, which has come into its own covering this historic election, and it's a credit to Senator Clinton, too, who accepted their invitation, took the tough questions and made a case - directly -for our vote.
"No community has been made more invisible than the LGBT community by this administration, and I want to change that," Clinton noted when talking about the largely silent stance of the Bush administration when it comes to gay issues. "I am committed to the fair and equal treatment of LGBT Americans."
And as the 2008 race moves on, it's heartening to know that, this time, we and our families are not invisible. And that's a significant change in American politics - whether we support Senator Clinton or Senator Obama - that we can all take hope in.