Hillary Clinton has taken some well-earned lumps for her caution on marriage equality and other issues. Clinton is an inherently cautious politician, but then again, if you were targeted by right-wing nutburgers (and a certain presidential candidate) who alleged you murdered a friend and were a secret lesbian, well, you might be a little gun-shy yourself. Add to this the fact that the mainstream media often mistake covering Clinton with target practice, and you’ve got the makings of a candidate who thinks twice about everything.
But let’s give credit where it’s due. Despite her occasional missteps, Clinton has on the whole been more than just a reliable supporter. She has actually gone out of her way to push the envelope on our behalf. That’s much more true than it is for her spouse, although Hillary gets dinged for what Bill did.
But judging a wife by her husband is so mid-century (or, to be blunt, sexist). Let’s judge Hillary by her own actions.
As Hillary prepares for the speech of her life at the Democratic convention tonight, here are six times when she really went out of her way to show she means it when she says she’s got our backs.
1. Declared LGBT rights as human rights
This may have been Clinton’s finest hour. It’s certainly her most underrated. She established a policy for the U.S. government that was a major step forward for international rights. In a powerful speech in 2011, Clinton eloquently demanded that the U.N. recognize our equality worldwide. “Like being a woman, like being a racial religious tribal or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human,” Clinton said. “And that is why gay rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are gay rights.” To her credit, Clinton’s commitment didn’t stop at the speech. Under her tenure, the State Department pressured countries like Honduras to protect its LGBT citizens and launched the Global Equality Fund to promote rights groups in other repressive countries.
2. Took on Russian officials over their homophobia
Unlike her opponent, who would be happy to let Vladimir Putin do whatever he wants, no matter how evil, Clinton has taken a tough line on Russia’s repressive policies, particularly when it comes to the gay community. “What Putin’s doing in Russia with all these laws against the LGBT community… is just a cynical political ploy,” Clinton has said, adding that as Secretary of State she got into “shouting matches” with top Russian officials. No wonder that Putin has thrown the weight of the Russian media behind Trump.
In a touching show of her humanity, Clinton responded to a post from a frightened gay kid. “I’m homosexual, and I’m afraid about what my future will be and that people won’t like me,” he said. Clinton (and not her staff) penned a response: “Prediction from a grown-up: Your future is going to be amazing. You will surprise yourself with what you’re capable of and the incredible things you go on to do. Find the people who love and believe in you — there will be lots of them.” It was showed the warm side that her friends value but the public rarely sees.
4. Put LGBT issues front and center in her campaign
Clinton is obviously trying to wrap herself in President Obama’s mantle, so it makes sense for her to show her support in prominent displays. After all, that will be one of Obama’s most enduring legacies. Still, Clinton is trying to do Obama one better, at least in terms of visibility. But from the speakers at the convention to the people in her ads, Clinton has made a point of our inclusivity as a core part of her idea of what America is today. Those messages and visuals resonate well beyond the campaign; they set the bar for the culture as well.
5. Spoke out early and often against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
This must have made for some interesting conversations at home: while Bill Clinton was still in the White House, Hillary pledged to do her best to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. She was running for Senate in New York at the time, and separating herself from her husband made political sense. But she went further than she had to, by declaring her husband’s compromise policy a failure six years after it was implemented and before the Democrats as a party saw fit to take a stand.
6. Made a couple of Pride Parade firsts
A politician marching in a pride parade? Not so much a big deal, right? But in 2000, Clinton became the first First Lady to march in a Pride Parade. This year she became the first major presidential candidate to march in a Pride Parade (sorry, Barack). Plus, she sure looked like she was having a blast doing it.