Terrance Heath

What Cha' Gonna Do For Me, Hillary?

Filed By Terrance Heath | April 08, 2008 1:40 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, marriage equality, New Jersey

I've said before that I'm not supporting either Clinton or Obama in the Democratic primaries, and I'm still not. (Though, as the contest wears on, one campaign is seriously trying my patience.) In part, that's the differences between them, for the most part, are still not that stark to me. And when it comes to gay issues, the difference is becoming less clear in some ways.

That said, something Hillary said recently set me off. Truth be told, I probably should have included Obama in the title of the this post -- given the latest news about his campaign -- but it wouldn't have had the same ring to me. I also don't have as much history with Obama as I do with the Clintons.

I'll just come right out and say it. I have a learned distrust of the Clintons, particularly when it comes to gay issues. In some some ways, it's akin to remaining just a little bitter towards the first lover who broke your heart. Having spent my formative years as a gay man in the dark tunnel of the Reagan/Bush years, like a lot of gays and lesbians in 1992 I saw Bill Clinton as a light at the end of the tunnel when he said to gay and lesbian Americans, "I have a vision for America, and you are part of it."

Still, no major Democratic candidate has made the kind of sweeping statement of inclusion as did Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992, when he declared to a huge crowd of LGBT people in Los Angeles, "I have a vision for America and you are part of it." His words brought tears to the eyes of the audience and rang out across the United States. Even the most skeptical of us in the LGBT community knew that we heard something previously unspoken by any major political figure.

With that, Clinton became the first (and last) presidential candidate I felt passionate about supporting. Maybe it was Clinton's fault for over-promising. Maybe it was my fault -- along with other gay activists -- for having unrealistic expectations; for daring, that is to hope. But the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a train. And the hard lesson learned is that no on candidate can really give you hope. At least not with promises and speeches. Hope comes from the work we do with our own hands and voices, while we wait for politicians to catch up.

So, I was more than a little skeptical when I read that Hillary Clinton declared she would defend equality and eliminate disparities for same-sex couples.

Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would defend gay rights as president and eliminate disparities for same-sex couples in federal law, including immigration and tax policy.

Clinton said states such as New Jersey and Massachusetts are extending rights to gay couples "and the federal government should recognize that and should extend the same access to federal benefits across the board. I will very much work to achieve that."

Clinton's comments came in an interview with the Philadelphia Gay News that was posted on its Web site Thursday.

Clinton said she and her husband have many gay friends that they socialize with when they get the chance. "I've got friends, literally, around the country that I'm close to. It's part of my life," she said.

She said that when they ask her why they can't get married, she tells them marriage is a state law. She said that fact helped defeat a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex weddings that she said would "enshrine discrimination in the Constitution."

"States are really beginning seriously to deal with the whole range of options, including marriage, both under their own state constitutions and under the legislative approach," she said. "I anticipate that there will be a very concerted amount of effort in the next couple of years that will move this important issue forward and different states will take different approaches as they did with marriage over many years and you will see an evolution over time."

Nice words. But I've heard such promises from a candidate named Clinton before. So, I have to ask one question.

How?

If I've learned nothing from the Clinton years it's that there are limits to what a president can do regarding LGBT equality. Aside from a willingness to sign supportive legislation passed by Congress, a president can issue pro-equality executive orders, as Bill Clinton did with Executive Order 13087, which amended an earlier order, to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation regarding federal government employees. A new president could preserve and enforce that order. And I suppose a president could issue an executive order to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

But, as far as I know, that's it. The only other significance might be what a president won't do. In that sense, it'd be nice to have a president who doesn't use his/her office as a bully pulpit to advocate discrimination against same-sex couples, and even enshrine it in the constitution. By the same token, a president could use his/her office as a platform to speak out in favor of equality.

Unfortunately, we have two candidates who are too hamstrung by other issues to fully make that leap. We have one candidate who is (a) opposed to same-sex marriage on the federal level, (b) is find leaving it to the states (a strategy which has almost never led to progressive change on civil rights), and to that end (b) supports only a partial repeal of DOMA, which would leave intact the clause allowing states not to recognize same-sex unions. Her solutions wouldn't necessarily stop stories like the second one in the previous post from happening. She has gay friends, but can't bring herself to fully support their equality.

We have another candidate who is also opposed to same-sex marriage (for religious reason, I guess), doesn't mind the likes of Donnie McClurkin, does at least support a full repeal of DOMA, but hasn't talked to the gay press in a while. (Perhaps to avoid upsetting the voters he hopes to win over with the support of folks like McClurkin, which is something else that I keep meaning to post about.)

So, it's nice to hear a candidate say things like this:

"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that people like you and Portia and others have a chance to have, you know, rights to be able to go to the hospital, to inherit property, to make sure that you can list somebody as a beneficiary on an insurance policy," Clinton said in an interview to air Monday on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

That's nice. But if Clinton, or any other candidate has solutions, put them on the table and tell us what you're actually going to do.

If Democrats and progressives are convinced that righting for legal marriage isn't effective right now, then we need to find another way to protect our families right now, not ten or twenty or thirty years down the line. We need to do more than shake our heads and say it's a shame that happens. If civil unions are the answer, then great. Let's craft legislation, or pour resources into states where it's achievable. But let's do something besides "just wait."

In other words, don't just tell me what cha' gonna do for me, Hillary (Obama, or anyone else who wants to chime in). Tell me how.

Crossposted from The Republic of T.


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diddlygrl | April 8, 2008 2:11 PM

You mean you actually Believe what a politician tells you?

I bet you own about half the state of Florida by now, and a good many bridges as well.

Calling a politician a lying sack of cow excretement would be an insult to the bag and cow paddies. They are a lower form of life than slime mold, in fact I prefer the slime mold coz it doesn't try and shake my hand while it stabs me in the back.

All politicians lie, cheat, steal, would sell their family, their soul( if they had one), their first born child, just to get a vote. I do not compare them to any animal life because I have too much respect for living creatures to degrade and demean them by the comparison. The same with inanimate objects.

And you know what, american politicians are the worst of the species, lower even than Italian or French politicians.

And these two are even Lawyers to boot!

Do I Have to tell you about lawyers Terrence?

Poor deluded man. Guess that is a problem with male couples, no woman around to show a little common sense every now and then.

( If I haven't offended everyone with this post yet, just wait, I will eventually get around to it later.) ;)

Diddlygrl,
Not ALL politicians are crooks. I've been fortunate in my lifetime to be represented by people who not only keep their campaign promises, but do it in an ethical manner as well.

Lets see, Barbara Jordan wasn't a crook. Mickey leland wasn't. My former Texas Governor Ann Richards damned sure wasn't, and she made Barbaba Jordan a part of her administration to ensure it was run ethically. My current congressman John Yarmuth isn't a crook either and niether was my former one Ken Bentsen.

One of the sad things about the last 40 years of GOP control is that their winner-take-all politics of diss and destroy has made people so cynical about politics and distrustful of the political process that people lump in the good, ethical, dedicated politicians with the scumbags.



diddlygrl | April 8, 2008 3:20 PM

Yeah, I exaggerated a bit, threw in some gross generalizations, a lump or two of stereotyping, sturred in a dash of rhetoric, and came up with a nice flavorful satire, with that hint of irony for taste. ;)

On a more local stage, politicians are not quite as bad as all that for the most part. I actually like our local mayor, Will Winn. I absolutely loved Ann Richards, and Barbra Jordan was probably one of the classiest ladies ever to grace the Texas capitol, and the halls of congress. But then, Texas does have its share of political scoundrels, be glad you are not here for the whole Tom Craddick thing. Need I mention Tom Delay? Of course there is the great king rat of them all, georgy porgy, bushy-pie. At least, thank the Goddess, Wyoming has to claim Cheney, though the bastard does live here in Texas, hopefully soon he and bush will reside in the Hague, if the ICC ever grows a pair.

After so many years of bush, can you blame a girl for being a bit cynical?

Nope...

Robert Talton (another of the GOP slime crew) is the reason I'm living in Kentucky now. He went after my job because I dared to lobby his office in 1999 about a TGAIN bill streamlining the name change process in Texas. I'd also been a vocal critic on KPFT-FM's 'After Hours' show about Dumb Fuhrer and the Texas Rethuglicans.

So I take it you don't like Hillary. And if you don't support Obama, does that mean you're voting for McCain? JUST KIDDING!

diddlygrl | April 8, 2008 6:20 PM

Yeah, Tarlton is a big scumbag, along with most of the repugs that make up the lege.

I am so glad they only meet once every two years, I hate to think of what kind of damage they could do if they were in session all the time.

Serena, it is a choice between tweedle de dee, tweedle de dum, and tweedle de dumber. Who is which is interchangeble, though bush 3, er mccain that is, probably more closely resembles the last.

I keep on hearing lgbt activists asking for specific how's from the candidates. Other than specify the leg they want passed, what else can they do?

Is this issue more a trust issue than it is about anything the candidates are saying? That seems more accurate to me.

I think it is a very wise thing to question the sincerity of the canidates, and other politicians. The community has been burned too many times before by it's "allies" both in congress and in the white house.

Billy bob told us that he was with us, then he passed DOMA and DADT. Our good friend barney the original log in log cabin republicans, despite his being a democrat, plays footsie with the haters and wingnuts, to pass a "white gay mmen only" bill, with the help of the original WGM club, HRC.

Yeah, it is time to stop listening to rhetoric and hearing only what we want to hear, and start looking at actions. All the presidential canidates have pandered to the religious wingnuts, at least mccain has made no bones about it. You at least have to give him credit for that.