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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Is Doing Great Stuff For the Gays. So Why Is She Lying About Her Record?

On Morning Joe yesterday, New York’s Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand insisted, “I have always supported marriage equality.” That is a lie, and she needs to stop lying.

When Gov. David Paterson in January 2009 appointed Gillibrand to take over for Hillary Clinton, the incoming senator very quickly got on the phone with gay rights organizations, including Empire State Pride Agenda and the Human Rights Cmpaign, to say she was committed to pushing LGBT equality, like gay marriage and repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. They rolled over and threw their support behind her, even though she was not entirely the gay rights pioneer she claimed.

And now she’s trying to rewrite history.

As a congresswoman representing a district in upstate New York, she said only that she supported “civil unions,” not marriage. And that, as we’ve debated endlessly, is not the same as supporting marriage equality. Moreover, she’s on the record saying she wants a state-by-state approach to marriage equality, not a federal recognition of gay couples. In the Jan/Feb 2009 edition of Inside/Out, she’s quoted as saying, “What I’d like to do legislatively, on the federal level – and I think we’ll be able to do this with the new president – is actually make civil unions legal in all 50 states, make it the law of the land. … [It’s] so culturally oriented. My mom’s generation, they want their gay friends to have every right and privilege that they should be eligible for as a married couple, but they feel uncomfortable calling it marriage. To them, a marriage is a religious word that they learned from the Catholic Church: It’s a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. So they feel uncomfortable with the word. But they don’t feel uncomfortable with the rights and privileges. I think the way you win this issue is you focus on getting the rights and privileges protected throughout the entire country, and then you do the state-by-state advocacy for having the title.”

And on issues like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Observer reported, she “declined to co-sponsor legislation that would have repealed the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, opposed legislation that would grant equal tax treatment for employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners, opposed legislation to grant same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents the same immigration benefits of married couples and opposed legislation to permit state Medicaid programs to cover low-income, HIV-positive Americans before they develop AIDS.”

That’s a lot of no’s.

But since being appointed senator, she’s done a whole shitload for the gays, including leading the fight to end DADT (and even halt its execution during the repeal process) and backing full gay marriage rights. This is excellent.

It’s too bad, then, that Gillibrand is opting to impeach her own trust by failing to acknowledge that her LGBT record is not 100 percent spotless and that her position has evolved (some might say, when it was politically convenient). The same way we called out one-time competitor Harold Ford Jr. for twisting history, we will with Sen. Gillibrand. These aren’t just careful reworkings of past events; they are lies.

You’re a cheerleader for gays rights now, Kirsten. You don’t need to lie. Stop it.

By:           editor editor
On:           Mar 12, 2010
Tagged: , , , , , , ,

  • 15 Comments
    • Franz
      Franz

      Look, I think she’s done more for gay rights than the HRC…I say, more power to her…what’s important are what she’s done for us…and there’s no question that she’s been one of the best and greatest advocates in the Senate.

      Mar 12, 2010 at 5:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • wondermann
      wondermann

      I hate to say this, but Queerty is right. She has not been our biggest supporter the whole way. We should question her as we questioned Harold Ford.

      Mar 12, 2010 at 6:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • AndrewW
      AndrewW

      She is right in line with New York State polling data on LGBT issues and religion. It just took her time to realize that. That’s not courage, it’s pragmatism. But, it’s good to have her full support now.

      Mar 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jane trahey
      jane trahey

      Gillibrand has said that she has always been for gay marriage, and she has done nothing to contradict that, before or since.

      Her support for civil unions reflected what was on that table at that time and place.

      Ford — as too many people seem to have quickly forgotten — actually voted to make gay marriage against the law.

      Comparing Gillibrand to Harold Ford is truly atrocious, and people who are ready to do that do not deserve an advocate like her.

      Mar 13, 2010 at 8:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • wondermann
      wondermann

      @jane trahey: Jane, that’s not atrocious… it’s fair. She has some issues that should be addressed and not looked over. We gave her a chance to change, why not ask her questions about her past record.

      Mar 13, 2010 at 8:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lanjier
      Lanjier

      She has swung a bat for us like no other Democrat. So she gets a pass.

      Mar 13, 2010 at 8:56 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jane trahey
      jane trahey

      wondermann wrote: “@jane trahey: Jane, that’s not atrocious… it’s fair. She has some issues that should be addressed and not looked over. We gave her a chance to change, why not ask her questions about her past record.”

      Her past record reflects what was on the table at the time — which did not include gay marriage — and not her actual personal preference. Has she even been — specifically — ANTI gay marriage like Ford? Again, to compare the two is IMHO disgraceful — and also pointless, since she is advocating for gay marriage now. If she’s not “pure” enough for you, maybe she should just go away.

      As for fairness, what’s “fair” about dredging up somebody’s support of civil unions in the past, when the alternative was no civil unions or legal status of any sort. Progress in these matters is almost always incremental, remember. People who think that throwing the baby out with the bath water is a good plan retard the process rather than promote it.

      Mar 13, 2010 at 8:58 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • wondermann
      wondermann

      @jane trahey: I’m sorry Jane, but your point still presents a double standard. What you are presenting are excuses. She changed her mind like Ford. Doesn’t matter what “was on the table at the time”, she still not completely all the way gay.

      Mar 13, 2010 at 9:23 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • wondermann
      wondermann

      Sorry I’ll rephrase that last sentence… She was not completely gay all the way

      Mar 13, 2010 at 9:25 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jane trahey
      jane trahey

      Inventing a faux history for Gillibrand and then slapping her with it accomplishes ….what???

      Even assuming what you wrote is dead accurate — which it isn’t — what’s the point of the discussion? To show how easy it is to bite the hand that feeds you?

      You seem to want to make her go away. Do you?

      Mar 13, 2010 at 9:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • AndrewW
      AndrewW

      @jane trahey: It’s nice that the Senator’s Staff has time to argue points on Queerty.

      The Senator endorsed the idea of get-what-you-can-now and maybe we can get “marriage” some time in the future. That’s different than the very simple, equality-based “yes” to same-sex marriage.

      She went from “civil unions” to “marriage” when she understood that was a safe position to take (based on polling data). That she “always supported” it, is weasely, if not lying.

      Tell Her to say she has “grown” and understands gay people better. That has worked well for Chris Dodd.

      Mar 13, 2010 at 9:51 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jane trahey
      jane trahey

      “@jane trahey: It’s nice that the Senator’s Staff has time to argue points on Queerty.”

      I’m not on her staff. That’s a very inappropriate assumption. I have never laid eyes on Senator Gillibrand. We are not connected in any way.

      If I were on her staff, I’d tell her to pay no attention to this blog and the ingrates who populate it.

      “The Senator endorsed the idea of get-what-you-can-now and maybe we can get “marriage” some time in the future. That’s different than the very simple, equality-based “yes” to same-sex marriage.”

      She was describing her own position visavis gay marriage, which is that she was (a) always infavor of it and (b) has never been against it. Like Ford. So to suggest that her position is similar to Ford’s is a “lie” — since you are so promiscuous about throwing that word around.

      “She went from “civil unions” to “marriage” when she understood that was a safe position to take (based on polling data). That she “always supported” it, is weasely, if not lying. ”

      It’s not “weasely” if civil unions are what were being discussed at the time. It’s certainly not “lying.”

      But I suggest — your attitude being what it is — that you withdraw your support from Gillibrand and try to find somebody better. Lots of luck.

      “Tell Her to say she has “grown” and understands gay people better. That has worked well for Chris Dodd.”

      I do not know the Senator and am therefore not in a position to make suggestions, but if I were, I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to try to put words in her mouth.

      Mar 13, 2010 at 10:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • AndrewW
      AndrewW

      Senator Gillibrand needs to screen her staffers better.

      Mar 13, 2010 at 11:32 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jane trahey
      jane trahey

      @AndrewW:

      And it’s pretty ridiculous — not to mention conceited — of you to assume that because I don’t share YOUR opinions, that somebody must therefore be paying me to disagree with you.

      Mar 13, 2010 at 12:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • AndrewW
      AndrewW

      Disagreement is fine. Spinning is different.

      Mar 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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