Chelsea blows chance to win LGBT support on Dallas trip

Posted on 21 Feb 2008 at 8:37pm
By Daniel A. Kusner Life+Style Editor


Chelsea Clinton speaks at the University of Texas at Dallas Student Union on Wednesday, Feb. 20. – Daniel Kusner/Dallas Voice

Candidates daughter refuses to budge from tired civil union refrain

What an exciting time to be a Democrat unless you’re a gay voter. At least that’s the impression Chelsea Clinton left on Wednesday morning, Feb. 20, after her "Our Voice, Our Future" powwow at the University of Texas at Dallas Student Union.

Approximately 400 North Texans showed up to hear the Clinton daughter speak as her mother and father campaign across the Lone Star State before the March 4 primary.

For queer Dems who are still straddling the fence between Obama and Clinton, some might opt for Hillary because Bill comes with the package. But on queer issues, is there a big difference between Obama and Hillary? Or even Dick Cheney?

Maybe Chelsea young, articulate and intelligent could lure some gay votes.

Don’t hold your breath.

Her 10 a.m. scheduled appearance started almost an hour late. During the introductory remarks, a UTD student botched her biographical information (Chelsea says she wasn’t a chemistry major). So Clinton interceded and took the mike from his hands, saying she was eager to hear questions.

There were a couple of questions about tuition and financial aid as Chelsea explained her mom’s "Expanding Access to the American Dream" plan, which provides a $3,500 tuition tax credit. The third question was posed by a young woman who asked about increasing rights for gay and lesbian Americans the first question that received applause.

Chelsea began an interesting list of proposals, which included equal domestic partner benefits for government employees. She also addressed the failure of "Don’t ask, don’t tell" and said that gays should be able to openly serve in the military, quoting Barry Goldwater who said, "You don’t need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight."

Then Chelsea started talking about her mom’s promise to strengthen hate crime laws and to end income tax discrimination for same-sex couples, and she said that her mom would use the bully pulpit to extend civil rights and ensure civil unions. Her answer also received applause.

The only other question that received applause that morning was "What would Bill’s role be if your mom is elected?" Chelsea explained that her dad would continue his post-presidency work, which includes his global AIDS initiative.

Another reporter asked what Chelsea thought about uniting Obama and Clinton on the same ticket. Chelsea tried to brush the question aside, saying that her mother and Sen. Obama have already discussed the "dream ticket" issue in debates, and that the reporter should consult those remarks. But the reporter pressed her, saying, "Chelsea, I want to know what you think about it."

A slight look of panic filled her eyes, but Chelsea wouldn’t budge, saying she was here to talk about her mom’s campaign not deliver her own opinions about the campaign.

My question came next: "I noticed during the gay rights question, you kept using the word ‘civil’ throughout your answer. Why can’t your mother stoop low enough to grant full, equal marriage rights for same-sex couples? Or is the word ‘marriage’ too sacred for the Clintons?"

"Civil unions is what my mother has supported for as long as I can remember. I’m 27, " Chelsea said.

"But the word ‘marriage’ is off the table, right?" I asked.

"Well, sir … She’s always supported civil unions," Chelsea said.

Chelsea Clinton is 27 years old, and her forum is a college campus. So why is she speaking like such an old fart? Even Jenna Bush can tell Diane Sawyer that some of her fathers’ policies are too complicated for her to necessarily agree with.

Chelsea has the opportunity to galvanize the youth of America. And to galvanize gay voters in Texas. Instead, she’s playing it way too safe.

As Texas’ primary draws near, Chelsea had the opportunity to be a voice. Some gays might vote for Hillary because Bill comes with the package. Maybe if Chelsea had her own inspiring message for gays, they might vote for Hillary because Chelsea comes with the package. Instead, she came off like the show pony of so-called "sacred" heterosexual marriage that’s laced with infidelity.

E-mail kusner@dallasvoice.com



This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 22, 2008

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