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Op-Ed: Human Rights Campaign could feel the Bern after endorsing Clinton

The Human Rights Campaign, an organization known for being at the forefront in the fight to increase LGBT rights, has found itself in hot water after supporting Hillary Clinton. The HRC’s Facebook page has been slammed with thousands negative reviews from Sanders’ supporters, who have been making the organization feel the Bern. Meanwhile, a petition has already attracted over 7,000 signatures demanding the HRC retract its endorsement.

While organizations should be free to support the candidates of their liking, when it comes to selecting Clinton over her top rival Bernie Sanders, there may be some potential hypocrisy involved. By any measurable account, Sanders has a better track record when it comes to supporting LGBT rights. At the same time, there may be motives at play beyond championing LGBT rights, owing to the close association the HRC’s President, Chad Griffin, with the Clintons.

The Human Rights Campaign regularly grades Congressional members for “supporting equality” and in the 108th, 109th, and 110th Congress’s, Clinton received scores of 88, 89, and 95 respectively. Sanders? Straight 100’s.

One of the major bills that Clinton refused to support was the Uniting American Families Act (S. 1328 Senators which would have amended “the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the same immigration benefits that legal spouses of U.S. permanent residents enjoy.”

It should also be noted that Hillary’s husband, Bill Clinton, signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) back in 1996. Sanders, meanwhile, was one of a few to vote against and denounce the bill. Hillary, for her part, would later denounce DOMA.

Given their respective track records, it’s hard to justify the Human Rights Campaign’s choice to support Clinton over Sanders. Of course, when it comes to politics, such decisions are often not made on the basis of voting track records, and where candidates actually stand on issues, but instead on political convenience and backroom deals.

According to the personal bio page for Chad Griffin, the current HRC President, he started his career at the young age of 19 in Bill Clinton’s press office. Wikipedia states that Griffin was hired on as a Press Office Manager, and in 1995 acted as the White House liason for the film “The American President.”

Given Griffin’s close association with the Clinton administration, it’s hard not to wonder if personal ties resulted in the HRC’s decision to support Clinton, rather than any track record of fighting for gay rights.

Either way, Griffin offered glowing support for Clinton: “Hillary Clinton’s LGBT policy agenda provides a bold and robust blueprint that would go a long way in addressing LGBT discrimination at the federal level, fighting the epidemic of violence against transgender Americans, continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS, advancing equality around the globe and more.”

Yet while Clinton’s official campaign platform is indeed LGBT friendly, it’s hard to forget that as recently as 2008, Hillary was still championing the notion that marriage was between a man and a woman. Public opinion has since swayed and now a majority of Americans do support gay marriage. Clinton’s stance has since evolved in step, and now Hillary has proclaimed herself as a champion of LGBT rights.

But is she really a champion, and someone willing to fight any uphill battles for gay rights? Or is she merely a political opportunist. Remember, Clinton was one of the chief supporters and architects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in its early days, and as Secretary of State helped advance negotiations. Yet facing an skeptical American public, Clinton changed her stance, announcing that she does not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a move Politifact has labelled as a “flip flop.”

In an Oct. 8 interview with PBS Newshour’s Judy Woodruff, Clinton stated, “As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it [The Trans-Pacific Partnership].”

Is this what she really believes? Or is it merely an attempt to pander for votes? Sanders, for his part, has opposed the trade deal from the get-go.

Mind you, the issue at stake isn’t whether or not signing the TPP is a smart move for the United States, but rather how consistent candidates have been in their support, and whether their stances on the deal are being crafted out of conviction or political expedience. It’s hard to trust politicians who will say anything that gets them into office.

Given that Clinton was one of the TPP’s earliest supporters, and as Secretary of State, would have had tremendous influence over the deal, fighting for it on at least 45 documented occasions, it’s hard not to wonder if Clinton’s “evolving” stance has more to do with appealing to voters, rather than any deeply held convictions.

Now ask yourself this, if Clinton is indeed willing to change her opinions based on whichever way the winds are blowing, can she be trusted to be a champion of LGBT rights should public opinion turn negative, or any major road blocks be reached? That’s questionable at best, and her track record suggests that she’d drop the issue as soon as that becomes the more convenient thing to do.

When it comes to Bernie Sanders, however, his decades long battle for full equality is proof enough. All the way back in 1983, when the battle for LGBT rights was just starting to become a mainstream debate, Sanders was already championing it as a major civil rights issue, signing a Gay Pride Day proclamation as the mayor of Burlington.

At the time, such support for gay rights was a political liability. In 1993, as a member of the House of Representatives, Sanders denounced “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and in 1996 he put his own political neck on the line, becoming one of just 67 Representatives to vote against DOMA.

What’s the lesson of all this? Sanders will fight for what he believes is right, rather than what makes the most “political sense”. Meanwhile, traditional politicians like Clinton have ruled the United States for decade, even as the country’s problems have become exacerbated. Now is the time for change, and now is the time to support candidates who actually fight for firm beliefs and ideals.

And for those organizations like the Human Rights Campaign that support the establishment, they might just find themselves the target of resentment, even in spite of their established track records.

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