Empire State Pride Agenda director says he supports senator’s re-election bid, but participating in event would send wrong message
NEW YORK Calling Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton “a complete disappointment” because of her opposition to same-sex marriage, the director of an influential gay rights organization told associates he will not participate in a fundraiser hosted by several of her gay supporters.
The refusal by the director of Empire State Pride Agenda to lend his name or raise money for the March 10 fundraiser set marriage equality as a new benchmark for candidates seeking political support from the gay community.
Other gay advocates said Clinton has been a leader on other issues of concern to gay voters, and her position on marriage should not disqualify her from their support.
In an e-mail to board members earlier this month, Alan Van Capelle of Empire State Pride Agenda said he still supports Clinton’s re-election, “despite her regrettable statements” on same-sex marriage and her support of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.
But he said supporting next month’s fundraiser, organized by prominent gay Clinton supporters including New York City Council President Christine Quinn, “will actually hurt our community.”
“It will send a message to other elected officials that you can be working against us during this critical time and not suffer a negative pushback from the gay community,” Van Capelle wrote.
Joe Tarver, a spokesman for the organization, said the Empire State Pride Agenda would have no further comment on Van Capelle’s e-mail, which was sent Feb. 10 and marked “confidential.”
But, Tarver added, “We are being overwhelmed by positive e-mails and phone calls around the country about Alan’s views on this. We think we’ve touched a nerve on something.”
Clinton opposes same-sex marriage but supports civil unions, which confer many of the same benefits to gay couples.
Her position mirrors that of her colleague, Senator Chuck Schumer, also a Democrat from New York, but puts her at odds with other prominent Democrats running statewide in New York this year. Among them is Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a candidate for governor, who said he would support legislation legalizing gay marriage if elected.
Clinton also supports the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law signed by her husband that defines marriage as “a legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife.” She opposes a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which many gay rights advocates cite as their most pressing political concern.
“If there’s one line in the sand, it’s the federal marriage amendment, and Hillary is strongly and inalterably opposed,” said Fred Hochberg, a Clinton supporter and dean at Milano, the New School for Management and Urban Policy. “I’m trying to be very pragmatic, and when I talk to gay and lesbian people around the country, that’s the key issue.”
State Senator Tom Duane, who is co-hosting the March 10 fundraiser, said Clinton was a “great friend” to the gay community despite her opposition to same-sex marriage.
He cited her efforts to boost funding to fight crystal methamphetamine addiction among gays, and her recent votes against confirming Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Duane added that he is hopeful the senator would eventually shift her views on same-sex marriage.
“I would like her to support our right to get married, and I’m not giving up on the possibility of convincing her.
“But I’m not going out of my way to alienate her, either,” Duane said.
The controversy comes as Clinton embarks on a multi-state fundraising swing for her re-election campaign.
She spoke to supporters at a New York nightclub Tuesday evening and headed to Florida and North Carolina on Thursday.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, February 24, 2006.