Democratic frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wooed over 800 LGBT activists affiliated with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) at the Mayflower hotel in Washington on Saturday. Clinton warned that the much-celebrated progress made by the LGBT community in recent years could easily be undone.
In her speech, Clinton sought to contrast herself with the various GOP candidates seeking their party’s nomination for the presidency in 2016 while establishing her bona fides as a “warrior for justice,” which is how Chad Griffin, the president of HRC, described her in a brief introduction.
“We’re going to face some ridiculousness, especially from our friends in the GOP,” Clinton said. “…We’re going to hear a lot from the folks running on the other side. And I want to tell you: Believe what they say. If anyone one of them, heaven forbid, were to be elected president, they will enact policies that will threaten you and your families.”
Clinton didn’t mince words, spelling out exactly what the stakes of next year’s election will be while also — without ever saying it — explaining what will happen if Democratic-leaning voters do not show up at the polls a year from November or allow divisions from next year’s Democratic primary fight to fester once an official nominee is chosen.
“Every single Republican candidate for president is against marriage equality — every one of them,” she said. “Many of them are against anti-discrimination laws. Many of them are against same-sex couples adopting. See if you, if you are ever in a forum with any of them, can get any of them to say the word ‘transgender.’ So the stakes in this election are high for the country, they’re high for so much of what we believe in and the progress we can continue to make. It can be undone. President Obama’s executive actions can be rescinded. The next president may get three Supreme Court Justice appointments. We could lose the Supreme Court, and then there’d be a whole new litigation strategy coming from those who oppose marriage equality.
“We have got to stay focused, stay united,” Clinton continued. “You deserve a president who will bring people together, who won’t leave anyone behind. That is what I will do. Because I know, from my own personal experience: the folks on the other side, you’ve got to give them credit, they never quit.”
Throughout the speech, Clinton praised activists who fought on behalf of equality — with specific shout-outs to Jim Obergefell and Edie Windsor, the chief plaintiffs in the marriage equality and Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) cases that have decided by the Supreme Court in recent years — and organizations like HRC for their efforts to bring about change, noting that “You’ve helped change a lot of minds, including mine” when it comes to various issues affecting the LGBT community. She touted her record and work on LGBT-related issues as First Lady, as a U.S. Senator from New York, and as Secretary of State, insisting that she will not use the community as a “political bargaining chip” when elected, acknowledging the skepticism that can exist when communities have their votes sought out during election time but ignored when it comes to implementing policy.
She also took aim at familiar targets, both on the GOP side of the presidential campaign, and much-reviled figures among the LGBT community. Clinton specifically knocked comments from pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson that gay marriage lead to the fall of the Roman Empire, jabbed Ted Cruz for criticizing one of his opponents for appearing in a gay pride parade, and smacked down Mike Huckabee’s embrace of Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis for her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses, adding that Davis is “breaking the law by denying other Americans their constitutional rights.”
Clinton also trained her fire on Indiana legislators who pushed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) law that she said would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers under the guise of religious freedom. Specifically, on the issue of health care, she criticized Republican governors who refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and, without naming him directly, Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, who increased the price of a drug used to fight HIV-related toxoplasmosis by 5,000 percent, from $13.50 to $750 per pill, as examples of people adopting policies that adversely impact LGBT people who are living with HIV.
The former Secretary of State also vowed to end the ban on allowing transgender servicemembers to serve openly, calling it an “outdated rule,” promised to upgrade the discharge statuses of military members dismissed under the now-defunct “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned LGB people from serving openly, and said she would cut off funding to any public child welfare agencies that discriminate against same-sex couples seeking to adopt and raise children together.
“I see the dangers that you and your families face. And I’m running for president to end them, once and for all,” Clinton said to thunderous applause. “I’ve been fighting alongside you and others for equal rights, and I’m just getting warmed up.”
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