On Sunday afternoon, Hillary Clinton announced her 2016 presidential bid with a video featuring many diverse communities that the candidate apparently plans to court in her upcoming campaign. It showed retirees, small business owners, students, and a gay couple planning their upcoming wedding, which begs the question — what is Hillary Clinton's stance on same-sex marriage? The answer goes back decades, and Hillary's position on the issue appears to have undergone a marked evolution since her husband's presidency.
Recently released papers show that Hillary's staffers "took a progressive stand on other gay-rights issues and helped push to torpedo anti-gay-rights legislation" during Bill Clinton's presidency. But that does not negate the fact that Hillary and Bill both supported the discriminatory Defense Of Marriage Act, which Bill signed into law in 1996, and allowed states to refuse to recognize same sex marriages that had been granted in other states. When Hillary was a Senate candidate in 2000, she said that she would have supported DOMA, but six years later she said she was in favor of repealing the part of the law that would seek to withhold federal benefits from same-sex couples, saying that she supported civil unions with full benefits. But to her, the issue of legal marriage "had always been a matter left to the states," she said in a 2014 interview with NPR's Terry Gross.
When DOMA was ruled unconstitutional in 2013, Hillary said that "of course" she was glad to see it go. After leaving her position as Secretary of State that year, she said "I was able to very quickly announce that I was fully in support of gay marriage. It is now continuing to proceed state by state and I am very hopeful that we will continue make progress and see even more change and acceptance."
But was this sudden support for same sex marriage a politically expedient move? Was she simply now able to voice the feelings she had always had on the issue now that the American people had progressed in their views? Or was she molding her views to match those of the American people? In the same interview, Hillary told Gross "I'm an American too, and I think that we have all evolved [in our views of gay marriage] and it's been one of the fastest most sweeping transformations I'm aware of. [In the 90s] the vast majority of Americans were just waking up to this issue and beginning to think about it and grasp it for the first time." She seems to have have counted herself among those people.
Though Hillary has not had the opportunity to vote on issues pertaining to same-sex marriage since her time in the Senate, she does say that she spent her time as Secretary of State attempting to advance the rights of gay people abroad. In a historic speech made on Human Rights Day in Geneva in 2011, Hillary spoke on behalf of "gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time."
It seems that, given Hillary's record of advocating for LGBT communities during her time in the Obama administration, her professed evolution on the issue of gay marriage in the past several years, and her inclusion of same-sex couples in her announcement video, we can be confident that she will adopt a progressive stance on the issue of marriage equality.
Hillary said in a June 2014 Town Hall meeting, "...if we're going to support marriage in our country, it should be available to everyone regardless of who they love, and that this marriage equality issue is a great human rights issue. So yes, I evolved over time and I'm very, very proud to state that I'm a full supporter of marriage equality right now."