(More on this forum will be posted tomorrow morning.)
Hillary Clinton, whose husband has a less than stellar reputation in many precincts of the gay community, was peppered with tough questions at tonight's gay rights forum in Los Angeles.
Rocker Melissa Etheridge, a moderator, told Clinton that gays felt "thrown under the bus" by her husband's administration in the 1990s. By this she meant the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy on gays in the military and President Clinton's support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
"All the great promises that were made to us were broken," Etheridge said. "It is many years later now. Are we going to be left behind like we were before?"
"I don't see it the way you describe that I respect your feelings about it," Clinton responded. The administration, the president, the vice president "did the best they could."
Etheridge: "Why not be a leader now?"
Clinton: "I think I am the leader now. But to not only talk about laws as important as they are, but to really try to change attitudes to persuade people that they should be more open, more respectful. If I were sitting where I were sitting with all you have gone through ... I'm sure I would feel the same way."
On gay marriage, HRC president Joe Solomnese asked her about her opposition. “I prefer to think about it as being very positive about civil unions,” Clinton said. But she said she respected the “advocacy” the gay community is “waging on behalf of marriage.”
Clinton called the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell “one of my highest priorities.” But she defended the policy as written – it was an “advance” that was poorly implemented, she said.
Some interesting back story: The sponsoring Human Rights Campaign – HRC – has occasionally been criticized for being in the pocket of Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) – broadly, the Clinton donor community, which includes many prominent gays and lesbians. Solomnese went out of his way to be ginger with Clinton, but he did not hold back. (My colleague Josh Green promised me a post about this tomorrow.)
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