Former first lady, secretary of state finally confirms her candidacy, but not all LGBTs are cheering


Barbara Rosenberg, left, looks on as Hillary Clinton addresses supporters during her 2008 presidential campaign. Rosenberg is once again backing the former first lady and secretary of state in her bid for the Oval Office. (Photo by Gary Otten)


JAMES RUSSELL  |  Staff Writer

To Hillary Clinton’s supporters, she’s a passionate advocate well versed in domestic and international issues, who has long been a thoughtful and pragmatic ally to the LGBT community.

But not everyone’s on board with the former secretary of state, senator and first lady. To her detractors, she’s power hungry, cozy with Wall Street bankers and wishy-washy on LGBT issues.

Such is the paradox of Hillary Clinton, who announced her second bid for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday, April 10.

Many progressive activists have repeatedly attempted to recruit the first-term Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, to jump into the race. Those efforts have languished, with Warren having repeatedly declined.

But other contenders have floated their names as alternative candidates, among them Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat who served as secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan.

Both have all but declared their candidacies; they are also running different types of campaigns. A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders is concerned that Clinton is too cozy with the financial interests and has failed to seriously address economic inequality. Webb’s campaign, on the other hand, takes a more libertarian approach, knocking Clinton, for among other things, her 2003 Senate vote to authorize the war in Iraq.

Neither is using LGBT issues to distinguish themselves from Clinton, however, who is popular among LGBT Democrats.

In the Democratic Party, long-time Hillary supporters said that the debate is over regarding Clinton’s support for LGBTs. Most recently a Clinton campaign spokesperson told The Washington Blade that the candidate hopes the Supreme Court will support marriage equality when deciding the same-sex marriage cases before them.

Clinton supporter Louise Young of Dallas said LGBT issues are left to the Republicans to squabble over. She, in fact, credits the former secretary of state for helping the Democrats embrace the LGBT community.

“President Clinton made history for his outreach to the LGBT community. I believe [then-First Lady] Hillary Clinton was lobbying behind the scenes for more LGBT inclusion and acceptance in the White House and beyond,” she said.

Barbara Rosenberg of Dallas agreed. A Clinton supporter in 2008 and now, she cited her longstanding advocacy on behalf of others. “I support her because of her advocacy and work for equality as first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, as a senator and secretary of state,” Rosenberg said.

While she may have been behind the scene in the 1990s at the height of the culture wars, Young added Hillary Clinton is now at the forefront of LGBT advocacy.

“It was historic for her to feature a same-sex couple in her video. I honestly didn’t think I’d live to see that. To think we’ve come that far!” she said.

hillaryclintonlogoHistory and its consequences

Including a gay couple in her announcement video may have been an historic step for Hillary Clinton to take. But to Shay Gabriel O’Reilly of New York, a gay married man with Texas ties, Clinton has another place in history.

“I can’t support [her] because of her history on economic issues. LGBT people, especially in the South and especially if they have kids, are much more likely to live in poverty,” he wrote. “Clinton’s coziness with Wall Street and her support of the disastrous welfare reform of the 1990s suggest that she’s not committed to helping the millions of struggling people in this country, gay and straight.”

O’Reilly’s economic concerns echo those of Sanders and backers of Warren, whose economic populism has garnered her national praise and is the thrust of the presidential recruitment efforts.

Young said many progressives skeptical of Clinton might still be pleased. She noticed Clinton’s video announcement emphasized, more than any other issue, boosting the middle class. “Were there a single issue that was stressed, it was that. What people need to watch is what she says during her campaign about economic issues and if she continues to stress issues facing the middle-class versus the ultra-wealthy.”

Young noted that even Sen. Sanders  thought that was good. “I think progressives would be satisfied she adopted issues tied to economic issues like taking on Wall Street,” Young said.

Concern with Clinton’s past is not reserved solely just to progressives, however.

Michael Phariss, who is gay and lives in Dallas, echoed another concern that’s masked the Clintons: that they are selfish and power hungry. He just doesn’t trust her.

“I would say the largest problem I’ve seen with [Hillary Clinton] is she is willing to follow the Machiavellian ideology to obtain power [over the years].

I find she acts and says anything she can to appeal to voters and achieve desires selfishly but has no intent on acting on things outside of her own agenda. To me that is not a leader.”

Questioning her legacy

The Log Cabin Republicans, a group of LGBT Republicans, had their own set of questions for the presumed Democratic frontrunner.

“With her candidacy formally declared, Mrs. Clinton now has the duty of providing answers to numerous questions that should give LGBT voters and allies pause, regardless of party affiliation,” LCR Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo stated in a press release.

Those questions call her pro-LGBT legacy into question. “Did Mrs. Clinton support the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by her husband President Bill Clinton while she was First Lady?”

Angelo also addressed Clinton’s more recent statement regarding same-sex marriage during an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross. When pushed on the question of marriage equality, Clinton said it’s an issue that “had always been a matter left to the states.”

“If Mrs. Clinton’s position has changed, when did it change? And what is the reason for that flip-flop?” Angelo asked.

Rosenberg disagreed that the Clintons were motivated by power and selfishness. “To address the concern that she’s selfish, you know, a lot of candidates have to be a little self-centered,” she said with a laugh. “But all of her work has really been to help herself so she can help people.”

Clinton’s legacy matters the most to Young. “I am a fervent Clinton 2016 supporter. There has never been a candidate more ready to be president than her,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 17, 2015.