Metro Weekly

Clinton objected to gender-neutral language on State Dept. forms

Released emails show Democratic frontrunner worried about conservative backlash over the policy change

Hillary Clinton - Credit: Eric Bridiers/State Department

Hillary Clinton – Credit: Eric Bridiers/State Department

Hillary Clinton fired off an angry email to staffers at the State Department in early 2011 following an article published in The Washington Post explaining how official state department forms had switched terminology on passport applications and overseas birth forms to include gender-neutral terms, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

At the time, the move was viewed as a nod to same-sex couples raising children together, changing references from “mother” and “father” to “parent one” and “parent two.” But according to emails from Clinton’s personal email server uncovered by The Wall Street Journal, the then-Secretary of State was less than pleased about the decision, believing it to be a political liability that would be seized upon by conservatives.

“Who made the decision that State will not use the terms ‘mother and father’ and instead substitute ‘parent one and parent two’? I’m not defending that decision, which I disagree w[ith] and knew nothing about, in front of this Congress,” Clinton wrote to her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills. “I could live w[ith] letting people in nontraditional families choose another descriptor so long as we retained the presumption of mother and father. We need to address this today or we will be facing a huge Fox-generated media storm led by Palin et al.”

Mills eventually responded to the email, writing: “Reaching out to folks to find out.”

As a result, the gender-neutral language was dropped. The Wall Street Journal reports that Mills then sent Clinton an Associated Press article the following day headlined: “State Department steps back on gender-neutral parentage, won’t replace terms ‘mother,’ ‘father.'”

The initial Washington Post story quoted Fred Sainz, the former vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, calling the news “a positive step forward for all American families” and an acknowledgement of “the reality that hundreds of thousands of kids in this country are being raised by same-sex parents.”

However, as Clinton feared, the right-wing Family Research Council (FRC) seized upon the policy change as reflective of the “topsy-turvy world of left-wing political correctness,” according to statements from the group’s president, Tony Perkins.

“This is clearly designed,” Perkins said, “to advance the causes of same-sex ‘marriage’ and homosexual parenting without statutory authority, and violates the spirit if not the letter of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),” which was two years away from being partially overturned by the Supreme Court.

A spokesperson for the Clinton campaign was not immediately available for comment. A spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign was also not available for comment.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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