FAIRFAX, Virginia—Energized by a week of major policy victories for Democrats, which culminated with the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, Hillary Clinton on Friday forcefully drew contrasts between herself and the 2016 Republican field on issues ranging from same-sex marriage and health care to immigration, women's health, and gun-control laws.
"A lot of the Republicans may talk about having new ideas and fresh faces, but across the board they're the party of the past, not the future," she told a crowd of about 1,800 supporters at George Mason University.
Clinton praised the Supreme Court for its same-sex marriage decision, quoting from Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion. "This morning, love triumphed in the highest court in our land," she said. "Equality triumphed. America triumphed."
Though Friday's event was a fundraiser for the state Democratic Party, which is neutral in the Democratic primaries, it felt like a de facto Clinton pep rally. The coterie of local and state politicians who spoke before her were effusive in praise, and virtually all of them endorsed or advocated for her on stage.
"I don't know about you, but I made my choice—I'm ready for Hillary," Sen. Mark Warner said, to applause.
Clinton's speech gave early but clear signs of how she'll paint herself against a Republican opponent if she makes it to the general election, as most assume she will. Clinton denounced a GOP field that, she said, "seemed determined to lead us right back into the past," going after the Republican candidates who criticized the Court's decision earlier in the day.
"This morning, they all decried the Supreme Court's ruling upholding marriage equality—we even heard them call for a constitutional amendment to strip away the right to equality from our gay brothers and sisters," she said, seemingly alluding to amendment proposals from Scott Walker and Ted Cruz. "Instead of trying to turn back the clock, they should be joining us in saying loudly and clearly, 'No, no' to discrimination once and for all."
"I'm asking them, please: Don't make the rights, the hopes, of any American, a political football for this 2016 campaign," Clinton continued.
She went on to to contrast Democratic policies on health care, women's health, and gun control with those of Republicans. Pointing to a vote in Congress over Centers for Disease Control And Prevention and research on gun violence, Clinton denounced Republicans for voting against the funding before the funerals of those shot and killed in Charleston, South Carolina were over. "How can you watch massacre after massacre and take that vote?" she said. "That is wrong."
She said the country doesn't need leaders who "shame and blame women" for medical decisions, calling out Republicans for restrictive policies on abortion and other women's health issues.
"Ask them about women's reproductive health, they're likely to talk—about defunding Planned Parenthood," she said. "Or maybe they'll insist on forcing women to undergo some demeaning and invasive medical procedure, as was attempted right here here in Virginia."
On health care, Clinton indicated that the Affordable Care Act isn't going anywhere after the Court's King v. Burwell decision, and Republicans would do well to fall in line. "All the Republicans candidates were furious that earlier this week, the Supreme Court once again confirmed what we've all known and believed for years—it is settled law and it is here to stay."
Clinton also showed how easily Republican candidate Donald Trump, who referred to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and "criminals" during his campaign announcement, can be turned into a talking point for her campaign. "Maybe he's never met them," she said. "Maybe he's never stopped to ask the millions of people who love this country, work hard, and want nothing more than a chance to build a better life for themselves and their children, what their lives are like."
Her speech came after a particularly emboldening week for Democrats, which began with widespread removals of the Confederate flag. That glee was apparent in speeches from the Virginia politicians who also appeared on stage.
"What an incredible week," Warner said. "I mean, is there a week in modern American history where so many fundamental things have changed?"
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said the week's victories made the country "a more perfect Union"—and said that if Clinton is elected, "we will make it more perfect again."
And Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime friend and ally of the Clintons, joined in as he introduced her on stage: "Yes, after 226 years, it is time for a woman president of the United States!"
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