During last week's historic gay debate, Hillary Clinton dredged up
the old states rights argument when justifying her opposition to
gay marriage. Apparently she thinks that the second class
citizenship of gays and lesbians is a matter for the states to
By drawing upon the language of states rights, Hillary embraces the
tradition of John Calhoun and the defenders of slavery along with
Strom Thurmond and the segregationists. Throughout our nation's
history, every time national public opinion turns against
oppression, opponents of progress use states rights to
present themselves as defenders of liberty in the face of federal
States rights has always been the last refuge of the bigots. Now
Hillary has given rhetorical cover to the homophobes. If she wins
the Democratic nomination, opponents of gay marriage will cite her
statement to justify their opposition to national marriage equality
over the next decade.
If Hillary misspoke, I urge her to immediately admit it and move on.
If she's on a personal journey toward accepting gay marriage, like
John Edwards, that's fine. Even he admits his opposition to
marriage equality is irrational. But as a leader of the Democratic
party, Hillary needs to understand the danger of offering
constitutional arguments against equality for all Americans. If
she believes the states have the right to deny equal rights to their
citizens, then she should tell us what other groups she's willing to
sacrifice on the altar of states rights.
During the last week's debate, I said that marriage equality is
inevitable. But in order to achieve it, we are going to need
leaders like we had during the civil rights movement -- brave leaders
willing to ignore the polls, overcome their personal hang-ups and
fight for equal rights all Americans in all states.