Communities Issues

5 Times Hillary Clinton Pushed for LGBT Rights


Welcome to Hillary’s Herstory, an ongoing series where we spotlight Hillary Clinton’s myriad accomplishments and the impact she’s made in her decades of public service.

Hillary Clinton has a long history of fighting for LGBT rights. It’s true that her personal positions on issues like gay marriage have evolved – as they hopefully would for any public servant who has been in politics for decades. But it is also true that she has always believed, at the core, that LGBT folks deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, are entitled to equality in the land of the free, and should be able to access the same opportunities as every other American.

It’s Hillary’s longtime commitment to LGBT rights that has earned her the endorsement of major queer and trans advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign; Lesbian Political Action Committee; Equality California, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; Stonewall Democrats of Arizona; and LGBT public figures and elected officials. And it’s her ambitious vision for LGBT rights – and comprehensive platform and strategy for making progress for queer and trans folks – that have earned her praise from many more as a candidate for president.

These are just five ways Hillary Clinton has pushed for LGBT rights throughout her career. When she becomes president, it’s these kinds of actions we can expect from her on day one in the fight for LGBT equality and justice.

1. She Was The First-Ever Global Leader to Declare That Gay Rights Are Human Rights, Again and Again.

In 2011, Hillary Clinton followed in her own footsteps when she declared, on a global stage, that “gay rights are human rights.”

via Wikimedia
via Wikimedia

In what could only be considered the 21st-century sequel to her historic speech on women’s rights in Beijing in 1997, Hillary did what no American leader or global figurehead otherwise had ever had the courage to do: unequivocally demand that LGBT rights be part of the human rights framework around the world.

“…I want to talk about the difficult and important issues we must address together to reach a global consensus that recognizes the human rights of LGBT citizens everywhere…. Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”

The speech, and sentiment, were about more than just words. They were a hard symbol of America’s commitment to institutionalizing a framework for human rights and democracy that lifted up, honored, and protected the rights and equality of LGBT people at home and abroad – and a signal to countries worldwide that Hillary’s work elevating conversations about queer and trans issues as Secretary of State wasn’t going to end with her departure, and that she intended to make sure America became a leader in the arena of LGBT rights.

But the speech, and sentiment, existed long before that speech in 2010.

In 2009, Hillary had expressed the same belief at a short speech for a State Department Pride event:

“These dangers are not ‘gay’ issues. This is a human rights issue. Just as I was very proud to say the obvious more than 15 years ago in Beijing that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, well, let me say today that, Human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all.”

Having a Secretary of State come out swinging on the international stage in support of LGBT equality is no small feat, and it’s had huge impact. The 2011 speech she delivered in Geneva is still paying dividends to the queer and trans people around the world who are fighting for their lives – and especially those in the most precarious situations.

2. …And Afterward, She Launched the Global Equality Fund to Bolster LGBT Rights Worldwide.

That historic speech in 2011 was part of a major announcement for the State Department, and for Hillary herself. It was the speech that launched the Global Equality Fund, a program that utilized public-private partnerships to bolster LGBT equality around the world. Hillary has outlined in her platform that she would increase funding to the GEF as president, but the program is now working with a budget of $3M. Thus far, it has partnered with the Human Rights Campaign, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and mGive to fuel a mobile giving revolution supporting LGBT equality worldwide and earned the praise of Freedom House.

The GEF model is simple: It empowers nations around the world – and the individuals, foundations, and businesses within them – to work together and support efforts for LGBT rights. By fostering partnerships, the GEF helps activists and organizations find support networks to push queer and trans rights into the mainstream of their country’s cultural and political conversations. The Fund also helps them get the resources they need through small grants and mobile donation technology.

The Fund, now housed in the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Partnerships, was Hillary’s brainchild.

3. In the Senate, She Voted Consistently for LGBT Rights. As Secretary of State, She Institutionalized Them.

Of course, all of this work was preceded by Hillary’s Senate career, in which she stood tall as an ally to LGBT folks at every turn.

As a Senator, Hillary voted against a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and supported efforts to expand workplace non-discrimination legislation to include LGBT employees, end restrictions on gay adoption, and put hate crime legislation into place that recognized the identity-based attacks on LGBT people. She earned an 89% grade from the Human Rights Campaign as a Senator, indicating her strong support for queer and trans rights.

via BossTweed
via BossTweed

Hillary built on her legacy as a pro-LGBT lawmaker as much as possible when she became Secretary of State. In her new position, she wasn’t able to vote on legislation in Congress – so instead, she did as much as possible to end discrimination in the State Department and institutionalize LGBT rights there before she left.

As Secretary of State, Hillary put an end to State Department regulations that disadvantaged same-sex couples and their families, including extending benefits to the same-sex partners of diplomats in an age before the repeal of DOMA. She also implemented workplace policies that honored and protected LGBT employees and quietly ushered in a passport policy change that made it easier for trans people to obtain a passport reflecting their true gender – which was a landmark for many in helping them obtain employment as well as travel easier.

In every way, Hillary Clinton has used her formal positions of power to advance equality for all people – including queer and trans folks who are often underserved by public servants.

4. She Led the Fight to Pass the UN’s First-Ever Resolution on LGBT Human Rights.

As Secretary of State, Hillary also worked to institutionalize a human rights framework around the world that honored LGBT rights. She succeeded when, in March 2011, the UN Human Rights Council passed the first-ever resolution condemning violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Hillary herself led the charge for the resolution along with leaders from Colombia and Slovenia, and ultimately 30 cosponsors and 85 member nations came on board to support the sentiment that all people – regardless of who they love or who they are – deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Hillary said in a statement about the resolution’s passing:

This statement is an example of America’s commitment to human rights through dialogue, open discussion and frank conversation with countries we don’t always agree with on every issue. In Geneva, our conversations about the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals with countries where sexual orientation is not only stigmatized, but criminalized, are helping to advance a broader and deeper global dialogue about these issues.

As I said last June, gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights. We will continue to promote human rights around the world for all people who are marginalized and discriminated against because of sexual orientation or gender identity. And we will not rest until every man, woman and child is able to live up to his or her potential free from persecution or discrimination of any kind.

We’ve already discussed how Hillary put a feminist foreign policy approach into play as Secretary of State. But more importantly, it was an inherently intersectional feminist foreign policy approach – one that centered the people most vulnerable around the world to violations of their human rights, and one that unwaveringly fought for them even when it wasn’t popular or east.

5. She Was The First Candidate to Talk About the “National Crisis” of Violence Against Trans Women of Color – and Offer Solutions.

When Hillary Clinton met with Black Lives Matter activists in October of 2015, their conversation jumped to the many trans women of color killed every year. Hillary was quick, of course, to condemn the violence – calling it a “national crisis” – and pledged to put issues like it first as president. But she also impressed the activists in the room with her depth of knowledge around the issue – something that’s embedded in her platform at various points – and gave them access to her policy directors to brainstorm solutions for the future.

via Deray McKesson and BuzzFeed
via Deray McKesson and BuzzFeed

Following the meeting, activists said they were impressed with Clinton’s command of the issue. Just this week, Keisha Jenkins, a 22-year-old transgender woman from Philadelphia, was brutally beaten and shot. A recent report published by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, in concert with Trans People of Color Coalition, said Jenkins was the 20th transgender person killed this year alone.

“I think it’s really important to have her voice as a part of this conversation,” Cherno Biko, a trans activist who was at the meeting told BuzzFeed News. “We need all hands on deck.”

“She acknowledged that it’s not her lived reality,” said Ferguson Commission’s Brittany Packnett, who is on the national planning team for Campaign Zero. “I don’t think she offered yet a lot of specifics about how to protect the most vulnerable among us, especially trans women of color. But it seemed like she wanted to do more listening on the topic which was encouraging.”

Hillary Clinton has stood in solidarity with LGBT folks for decades. Since her time as First Lady – in which she made history as the first-ever First Lady to march in a Pride parade – she has defended and fought for LGBT people and their rights. Her commitment to equality for all is what sets her apart not only from her opponents in this presidential race, but from many lawmakers who don’t govern with a fearless sense of feminism.

For LGBT folks, Hillary record and vision say it all: When she wins, we win.


Carmen Rios

Carmen is a writer, revolutionary, and social media guru living the dream in Los Angeles. She coordinates blog content for the She Wins campaign and is also the Digital Editor at Ms., Co-Founder and Managing Editor at Argot Magazine, Feminism Editor and Community Director at Autostraddle, and a Contributor at Everyday Feminism.