Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) casts herself as a moderate on gay marriage before mainstream audiences, but in a Saturday address to a pro-gay lobby group she promised that if elected President in 2008 she would secure a range of gay rights victories, including adoption for same-sex couples.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and trangender civil rights organization, hosted the event and posted a video of Hillary’s address online although Clinton’s staff kept the stop off her public schedule.
In the past, Hillary has dodged explaining her position on gay marriage. In June 2006 she voted against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, but enacted a personal policy of "don’t tell" in talking about her vote.
In her speech, she called the Federal Marriage Amendment that failed the Senate last year to strictly define marriage as an act between a man and a woman “wedge politics at its worst.”
“It [FMA] was mean-spirited,” she told activists. “It was against the entire forward movement of American history.”
Hillary vowed to promote what many consider to be the most radical component of the gay agenda: adoption rights for same-sex couples.
"I have long supported civil unions," she said. "We’re going to make sure that nothing stands in the way of loving couples, gay or straight, to adopt children.”
She also said she would work to secure employer benefits for same-sex couples.
"We’re going to reach out and work with our allies in Congress both to change laws and change hearts,” she said. “We want to make sure that all Americans in committed relationships have equal benefits from health insurance and life insurance and Social Security and property rights and more."
"These are fundamental rights," she emphasized.
She said this would come through passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would “criminalize discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation.”
“It is inconceivable to me that in the year 2007 people can still be fired because of who they love. It is unfair, it is un-American and we are going to put a stop to it once and for all.”
She also called for an end to the military’s “failed policy” of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that was created by her husband President Bill Clinton.
“This policy just doesn’t hurt gays and lesbians. It hurts all of our troops and this, to me, is a matter of national security and we’re going to fix it because we know our nation is stronger when our nation’s men and women are permitted to serve if that is the choice they want to make.”
Finally, Hillary pledged to expand federal hate crime legislation. She said, “Hate crimes are an affront to the core values that bind us to one another and we should marshal our best resources to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.
Twice in her address, Hillary noted that she shared the same initials as the Human Rights Campaign.
“Did you ever notice that?” she joked. At the end of her speech she said coyly, “We can accomplish these goals because we have the same determination, the same can-do attitude and the same initials."
While introducing the senator, HRC President Joe Solmonese mentioned at least three strategy meetings in which Clinton had convened with the Human Rights Campaign on Capitol Hill to defeat FMA.
He said that he and Hillary had a “storied past” that began when he was working with Emily’s List, the pro-abortion group that raises money for Democrat candidates.
“It was Senator Clinton who first summoned me to the Hill to talk about our strategy for defeating the federal marriage amendment,” he said.
He said she asked him: “How are we going to make sure the messaging is united, the Senate is united, the community is united and we are going to kill it [the federal marriage amendment] dead?”
“She brought us the Senate to brief people on how to get this done,” Solmonese recalled. “She convened the meeting and she made sure everyone was in line.”
Hillary thanked Solmonese for remembering these meetings and assured listeners, “I want you to know this is exactly the kind of partnership we will have when I am President."
Hillary moderates her position on gay marriage in front of conservative audiences by saying that she is “personally opposed” to gay marriage and speaking of her support for the Defense of Marriage Act that her husband signed in 1996.
DOMA mandated that no state need recognize a same-sex marriage formed in another state and that the federal government need not recognize same-sex marriage for any purpose.
This isn’t the first time Hillary has met with gay rights groups underneath the radar of the national media. While campaigning through midterm elections, Hillary secretly met with a coalition group of New York-based Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender leaders and said she believes in "full-benefits, nothing left out" for same-sex couples.
The only media to cover the event was the New York-based Gay City News.
At that meeting activists told the media that Hillary said that she publicly supported DOMA as a “strategic decision” to put off passage of a constitutional amendment, like FMA, to ban gay marriage outright.