[EDITOR'S NOTE:] Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton issued this guest post to talk about her support for LGBT civil rights.
As I have traveled around the country these past twelve months, what I sensed in my heart has been confirmed – America is embracing its LGBT sons and daughters with an acceptance and understanding as never before. On the campaign trail, a father of a gay son will ask about ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. A woman will ask why she can be discriminated against just because of who she is. Sometimes they wait furtively for the crowd to thin and then whisper their confidences in a soft voice and sometimes they stand up proudly at town meetings and want me to share my views on how I will help lead the change to assure that this country fulfills its promise to everyone.
Let me tell you what I have been telling voters across America. I am fully committed to the fair and equal treatment of LGBT Americans. For seven long years, the Bush Administration has tried to divide us - only seeing people who matter to them. It's been a government of the few, by the few, and for the few. And no community has been more invisible to this administration than the LGBT community.
I will change that. The best evidence of what I will do as President is what I have already done.
- I am proud of my record as First Lady, as a U.S. Senator and as a candidate for President in working toward the fair and equal treatment of LGBT Americans.
- I am proud that as Chair of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee in 2006, I worked closely with LBGT community to develop a smart strategy that defeated the Federal Marriage Amendment. I am proud of fighting the FMA as divisive wedge politics at its worst.
- I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligation Act which would grant the same benefits (including health insurance) to domestic partners of federal employees that are currently offered to employees’ legal spouses.
- I am proud to have authored the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which expands access to vital treatment options for low-income individuals living with HIV, and fought to fully fund the Ryan White CARE Act.
- I am proud that I hired a National Director of LGBT Outreach within a month of announcing my candidacy for President and to have openly gay and lesbian staffers serving at all levels of my campaign.
- I am proud to have a National LGBT Steering Committee of over 130 that includes openly LGBT elected officials, Board members and opinion leaders on issues ranging from transgender rights, to HIV/AIDS, to “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”.
- I am proud to have marched in Gay Pride parades as both First Lady and as Senator and to have spoken in front of so many LGBT audiences ranging from the Human Rights Campaign, Empire State Pride Agenda, the Hetrick Martin Institute, PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), and the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
- I am proud to have fought Republican efforts to demonize and marginalize the LGBT community, and I will continue to do that as President.
We have so much work to do. When I am President, we will work together to make sure that all Americans in committed relationships have equal benefits and that nothing stands in the way of loving couples who want to adopt children in need. We're going to expand our federal hate crimes legislation and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and assure that they are both fully inclusive of all people. And finally, we will put an end to the failed policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice – the traits that define our men and women in uniform – have nothing to do with sexual orientation.
My father was a conservative Republican, who held very traditional views for much of his life. Yet in his last years, it was a gay couple who lived next door who provided much of the compassion and comfort he and my mother needed as he grew ill. And it was that same neighbor who held his hand as he died. If my father can move, America can move.
To each and every LGBT American, I say this. You have done so much to help this country understand your lives by simply being open and honest about who you are and living your lives with dignity. Thank you for your courage. It is time that we recognize your hard work. I know that this country is ready for changes in the law that reflect the evolution in our hearts.
America deserves a President who appeals to the best in each of us, not the worst; a President who values and respects all Americans and treats all Americans equally no matter who they are or who they love. I want to be that President. I want to be your President.