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And on issues like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Observer reported, she “declined to co-sponsor legislation that would have repealed the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, opposed legislation that would grant equal tax treatment for employer-provided health coverage for domestic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.