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Monday, October 26, 2015

Andrew Cicchetti My 2 Cents: Sanders and Clinton on DOMA and LGBT Rights

Much has been made of Bernie Sanders strong critique of Hillary Clinton's revisionism of DOMA history. Link For those of you that don't know, the so called Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law in 1996 by Bill Clinton and prevented the Federal Government from recognizing same-sex marriages and from one state needing to recognize the same-sex marriages performed in other states. This was particulary harmful to the gay community and especially hurtful because Bill Clinton ran for election promising to be an ally to the LGBT community. Clearly, he wanted our votes. Thankfully DOMA was overturned in 2013. Link

Why did Clinton support this heinous law?  In my opinion, the reason is best explained by Richard Socarides, an openly gay lawyer who was a staffer for Clinton in the 90s. Link The point Socarides makes is that Clinton wanted to avoid any blowback from having vetoed this bill during his reelection campaign.  Furthermore, to add salt to the wound,  Clinton touted his having signed DOMA into law during his campaign as though he was proud of his actions. Link. 

When Hillary Clinton was on the Rachel Maddow show last Friday, October 23, 2015, she told Rachel that both the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell were defensive maneuvers to prevent something much worse. Link This is simply untrue and has been debunked by several prominent gay rights activists who were there and remember. Link It has been said that Clinton was revising history. 

The intentional revision of history to cast oneself in a better light is most commonly known as lying. If I am not mistaken it was David Geffen who quite famously pointed out that all politicians lie to some extent but that the Clintons do it with such ease. Link Should this be a problem for Clinton? Yes, it should, but a surprising number of people, gays amongst them, are choosing to give Clinton a pass. Clinton did not want to use any political capital to squelch this and chose instead to sign this law rather than face any blowback during his reelection campaign. This is commonly referred to as throwing people under the bus. We were thrown under the bus, my gay brothers and sisters!

But should Hillary be held responsible for her husbands presidency. Well, yes! Here's why. They sold themselves as a co-presidency. Link She actively lobbied congress to pass some laws and not others. You can be certain this decision on the part of her husband reflected her own position. In fact, in 2004 she asserted that she believed that marriage is in fact a sacred bond between husband and wife. Link 

Now, if Hillary had said in the interview with Rachel Maddow, who seems not to know her own gay history, that there was little political will to champion the cause of the gay community in the 90s she would have been accurate. However, this then elevates the importance of Sanders vote. He voted against DOMA. He voted against DADT. He called out the homophobia of his republican colleagues in 1995, most famously in a battle with Duke Cunningham. Link 

Why is any of this important? Well I think most importantly it highlights that Sanders leads based on principle and conviction. He does not follow polls or bend with the political wind. The same cannot be said of Hillary Clinton. Yes, I know she now likes to say that she stands her ground and finds common ground, but there are numerous examples of where she acts without regard to principle because it is politically convenient. Elizabeth Warren on Hillary and Working Class Women. Hillary Clinton on Reopening the Door to the TPP After Saying She Was Against It. Robert Scheer on Welfare Reform and Wall Street. On Guns. And of course, let's not forget the War in Iraq vote.

I think Sanders is the right person at this point in time for the country. Wealth and income inequality and the erosion of the middle class are perhaps amongst the greatest threats to the well-being of our great nation. He is a man of conviction. He makes political decisions based on humanistic, progressive values. This is why he has my vote. 

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