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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Interviewed for the Cover Issue of the Gay Rights Publication, The Advocate

January 10, 2011

There is on newstands now. It is a very long and very wonderful cover story and interview about Secretary Clinton’s commitment to GLBT rights at the State Department. Here is an excerpt (go read the whole thing, it’s long):

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reveled before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 State Department employees celebrating gay pride at the agency’s Loy Henderson Auditorium in Washington, D.C. last summer. “Gee, let’s do this every week!” she said. This, it seemed, was to be more of a reunion of old acquaintances than a perfunctory speech on diversity.

At first, Clinton glanced down—to the lectern and her prepared remarks. But her focus on the written page melted away as she looked up and rolled on with the speech, channeling the myriad mental notes she had made over the years.

Displaying an uncanny depth of understanding for the challenges that many LGBT youth experience, Clinton spoke of tragedies that would only come to national attention months later after a spate of heart-wrenching teen suicides dominated headlines for weeks. She called on the staff members before her to help create a safe space for gays and lesbians everywhere, “Particularly young people, particularly teenagers who still, today, have such a difficult time and who, still, in numbers far beyond what should ever happen, take their own lives rather than live that life.”

Men and women around the world were being “harassed, beaten, subjected to sexual violence, even killed, because of who they are and whom they love,” she said.

“This is a human rights issue,” Clinton told the rapt audience. She ad-libbed, recalling an oft-quoted line from a landmark speech on women’s rights at a U.N. conference in China: “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.”

Asked months later what was going through her mind when she offered the unscripted line at the pride celebration, Clinton responds with her inimitable laugh. “Oh, heavens, I don’t know—I don’t know,” she says before settling back into the moment. “I was looking out at the audience where a lot of longtime friends, political supporters, colleagues were sitting, and it just seemed so important and right to make that statement.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton was in the midst of running damage control on one of the most revealing and frenetic episodes in State Department history when I interviewed her by telephone in early December. Two weeks earlier I’d still been planning for a sit-down meeting to discuss her work on LGBT rights at the State Department when I received an ominous preemptive e-mail from the White House press office.

“We anticipate the release of what are claimed to be several hundred thousand classified State Department cables on Sunday night that detail private diplomatic discussions with foreign governments,” the statement began, foretelling a tidal wave of international correspondence that would become equal parts historical treasure trove and diplomatic nightmare. From that moment on, my place on the secretary’s calendar was tenuous at best. Finally, Clinton’s schedulers managed to work in a call two days before this magazine went to press.

Feeling your way through an interview with one of the world’s most powerful women is more art than science. Marriage seemed like the place to start, since Clinton had been caught off guard by a recent inquiry on the issue while visiting Australia. Her husband has said that he now supports full marriage equality: Many of his gay friends are in committed relationships, former president Bill Clinton said in 2009. As far as marriage goes, he said, he had just been “hung up about the word.”

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Thain permalink
    January 10, 2011 12:37 pm

    ROCK ON! That’s awesome! I had no idea she did this. This is the January issue? Wow. She rocks.

  2. Fred permalink
    January 10, 2011 12:40 pm

    Just saw this tweet on twitter- thanks for the heads up! She’s amazing.

  3. January 10, 2011 1:33 pm

    Two thumbs up! She’s great…

  4. Tovah permalink
    January 10, 2011 1:43 pm

    This is wonderful. This is what leadership looks like.

    I have to say, I still don’t understand what the hang up is over gay marriage. I wish she’d come out and support that. But I’ll take what I can get at this point and this is very positive.

  5. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    January 10, 2011 2:02 pm

    The hang-up about gay marriage? Homophobia, pure and simple. America has evolved to the point where most of us believe — or say we believe — that people are entitled to do whatever they want “in the privacy of their own bedrooms.” Just don’t be all in my face about it! Marriage is a very public statement of the existence and legitimacy of gay relationships. I think this is the same lingering homophobia that was behind DADT — do whatever you want, I just don’t want to know about it, or (ewww) have to think about it.

    • Tovah permalink
      January 10, 2011 2:06 pm

      Right, but Hillary has said gay rights is a human rights issue so I am not sure how she can then justify excluding gay marriage from that “human rights issue”. I also don’t know how anyone can have gay friends, colleagues, children, parents etc. and still be anti-gay marriage. It just seems like she’s evolved so much, how can she not see that the refusal to accept/grant gay marriage plays into the very homophobia you mention and the very homophobia she has spoken out against? Is it generational?

      • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
        January 10, 2011 3:02 pm

        Oh, well I assume she’s being realistic, politically speaking. Bill waited until he had been out of office for several decades to do the right thing!
        It does make me think perhaps Hillary’s days in public office are not coming to an end. 😉

        • January 10, 2011 6:28 pm

          I don’t want to be negative and I understand the reality of politics- I really do- but I find it frustrating that my rights are so easily considered expendable to ensure the advancement of a political career- I’m not talking about Hillary, because she’s probably one of the most vocal advocates of gay rights in this administration by far and I give her tremendous credit for making gay rights front and center when she really didn’t have to and she’s more willing than most to go out on a limb. That said, I wish she would openly support federal recognition of gay marriage, even if just from a LEGAL perspective. She has the star-power, the credibility, the political gravitas and the human rights record to really push this issue more into mainstream acceptance without it being seen as “radical.”

          I get frustrated with the Democratic party because they seem to sit back and watch the polls and wait until about 70% of Americans support a particular aspect of gay rights (like with DADT, employment nondiscrimination) before they will take a stand- not all of them of course, but a lot of them. When we’re talking about nuclear power plants for clean energy that number crunching and obsessive poll-watching may be acceptable but when we are talking about human rights, I don’t think it is. Can you imagine if LBJ had waited until the entire Congress and a large majority of the American people were “comfortable” with civil rights before he really pushed for the passage of the Civil Rights Act? What makes civil rights leaders actual LEADERS is a willingness to stand up unconditionally for human rights even if it’s not universally popular at the time. We look back at people like MLK and the suffragists and it all seems so common sense but at the time they were considered RADICALS- thank God they stood up against public opinion and refused to be silenced, even when what they had to say wasn’t popular.

          One off the reasons I am dogmatic about Palestinian rights and taking note of anti-Muslim bigotry on this blog is because I get worried when I see a politically and culturally unpopular groups of people targeted and stereotyped and deemed politically expendable b/c a more powerful group holds political sway. I tend to root for the underdog.

      • Seamus permalink
        January 10, 2011 7:40 pm

        Well-said Stacy

      • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
        January 10, 2011 11:36 pm

        You’re right, of course

  6. Pilgrim permalink
    January 11, 2011 12:21 pm

    Stacyx, I find it comforting that you are “dogmatic about Palestinian rights.” So few people are. I don’t understand it.

  7. Seamus permalink
    January 11, 2011 3:03 pm

    I am glad too, not enough people are. They are dehumanized and the attitude is that if something bad happens to them they deserve it. Two 65 year old men were shot in a week in different instances by the IDF from a watch tower as the older men were farming their land. They were unarmed. The IDF says the men wandered into the “kill zone” where it doesn’t matter if they are armed. Problem is, the kill zone happens to be part of these men’s property. Now imagine if Palestinians set up a kill zone and killed unarmed Israeli Jews on the other side of the fence? It would be all over the news and it would be called terrorism.

    Israel can’t do anything that doesn’t involve stealing land. If the grand Security Wall is really for security, whey has it’s path been altered so many times to ensure that as much Palestinian land as possible is taken for Israel? Why didn’t Israel build their apartheid wall along their legal borders.

    Why don’t American media ever ask these questions? European media is not much better but here in N. Ireland we are way past fed up!

  8. March 24, 2013 11:14 am

    She looks great on the cover.

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