WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday delivered the strongest statement of support for gay rights in the 2016 presidential race when she promised that ending discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people would be a central pillar of her administration.
“I see the injustices and the dangers that you and your families still face,” she told hundreds of gay activists at the annual meeting of the Human Rights Campaign. “I’m running for president to stand up for the fundamental rights of LGBT Americans.”
She added: “That’s a promise from one HRC to another.”
The statement marked a remarkable evolution for Clinton, who opposed same-sex marriage for more than two decades in public life as first lady, senator and presidential candidate. As recently as this year, Clinton said that while she personally supported gay marriage, the issue was best left for states to decide —a position held by most of the Republican presidential field.
Clinton has placed equal rights at the forefront of her campaign, in part a reflection of the growing political and financial strength of the gay community in Democratic politics.
Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering a 2016 run, was to speak at the group’s dinner, while Clinton was booked on “Saturday Night Live.”
In her appearance, Clinton said she has been “fighting alongside you and others for equal rights and I’m just getting warmed up.”
As activists chanted her name, she promised to work to pass legislation that would end discrimination, lower costs for HIV treatment and stop funding child welfare agencies that discriminate against gay parents.
She committed to pushing equal rights in the military, including for transgender people. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said the Pentagon’s current regulations banning transgender individuals from serving in the military are outdated. He has ordered a study aimed at ending one of the last gender- or sexuality-based barriers to military service.
Clinton’s remarks, particularly on the transgender issue, went further than any other candidate in the race. “We need to say with one voice that transgender people are valued,” she said. “They are loved and they are us.”
This summer, her campaign jumped on the Supreme Court’s watershed same-sex marriage decision, changing Clinton’s red campaign logo to a rainbow colored H, releasing a video of gay wedding ceremonies and sending supportive tweets.
Clinton said Saturday that the court’s decision could be overturned, should a Republican win the White House next year and appoint conservative justices.