WASHINGTON – Hillary Rodham Clinton, free to dip her toe in the water of domestic politics after four years as the nation’s chief diplomat, joined other leading Democrats in endorsing same-sex marriage.
Clinton’s announcement – her first public statement since leaving her post as secretary of State in President Obama’s Cabinet on Feb. 1 – came Monday in a video released by the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights group.
“LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones. And they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage,” Clinton says in the video, adding that she supports marriage rights for same-sex couples “personally and as a matter of policy and law.”
Like many party leaders at the time, Clinton stopped short of support for same-sex marriage as a presidential hopeful in 2008, though she supported civil unions “with full equality of benefits, rights and privileges,” as she said in a 2007 debate. In another candidate forum, she said that the issue of gay rights “will remain an important one in our country” and, noting that Republicans had used the issue to drive conservative voters to the polls in previous elections, she said Democrats should stand “against hatred and divisiveness.”
Now, support for same-sex marriage is embedded in the party’s platform. Vice President Joe Biden, like Clinton a potential contender for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination, announced he supported gay marriage in May 2012, prompting the president to reveal his support days later.
Other possible candidates, including Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Martin O’Malley of Maryland, had already pushed their states to enact marriage equality laws. The issue has evolved so rapidly in contemporary politics that the announcement Friday from a leading Republican, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, supporting gay marriage sparked little response.
In her video, Clinton seemed to suggest that her newly expressed view was one she had held personally for some time. She began by recalling a 2011 speech in Geneva in which she said that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights” – language that evoked a similar statement in support of women’s rights that she had delivered in Beijing during her husband’s administration.
But she now goes further, stating that to deny the opportunity of marriage “to any of our daughters and sons solely on the basis of who they are and who they love is to deny them the chance to live up to their own God-given potential.”
Clinton also offered a peek at how she might reengage in the political sphere ahead of a second potential campaign. Traveling the world as secretary of State, she said, “reaffirmed and deepened my pride in our country and the ideals we stand for” and “inspired and challenged me to think anew about who we are and the values we represent to the world.”
“Now having left public office, I want to share some of what I’ve learned and come to believe. For America to continue leading in the world, there is work we must do here at home. That means investing in our people, our economy, our national security. It also means working every day as citizens, as communities, as a country, to live up to our highest ideals and continue our long march to a more perfect union,” she said.
This weekend David Plouffe, one of Obama’s chief political advisors in both presidential campaigns, said Clinton was “by far … the most interesting candidate, probably the strongest candidate” in either party for president in three years. Her plans, though, are far from clear at this early stage. In a series of exit interviews Clinton said her immediate priority was to reconnect with friends and family and recharge her batteries after her grueling four years at Foggy Bottom.
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