Hello, Human Rights Campaign! It’s great to be back with the HRC. There’s no one I’d rather share my initials with than you.
It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it?
It felt like all of America was out dancing in the streets this June. And that’s because of you. Because of Jim Obergefell, Edie Windsor, and all the families who took their fight all the way to the Supreme Court. It was because of leaders like Chad, JoDee Winterhof, who is here, and Joe Solmonese, who is here, and Mike Berman, who is my longtime friend and who has been a champion, all the members of the HRC boards and committees, and everyone who marched, sang, wrote briefs, sacrifice, everything you did to make marriage equality the law of the land.
Now there is a map on the wall of my campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, in a place of honor, right when you walk in. It’s called “States Where Marriage Equality Is Law.” And it’s just a plain old map of the United States. But because now every single American — no matter where you live — is free to marry whoever you love, the map is colored everywhere. And that is the way it should be. That is real progress, my friends. And the people here today deserve a lot of the credit for making it happen.
Now, you’ve helped make other progress as well — including President Obama’s executive order barring companies that do business with the federal government from discriminating against LGBT Americans. And I appreciated your support, when as Chad said, I took steps to ban discrimination at the State Department, including by extending equal benefits to the partners of diplomats.
I’m really here to say thank you for your hard work and your courage. And for insisting that what’s right is right. You’ve helped change a lot of minds, including mine. And I am personally very grateful for that.
After all the remarkable achievements of the past few years, no one would blame you or HRC for wanting to take a break, to kick back, kind of enjoy what’s going on. Just for a little while, right? But I wish that all the progress that we’ve made was so secure, and so deeply ingrained in our laws and our values, that we didn’t need to constantly keep defending it. But we’re not there yet.
There are still public officials doing everything in their power to interfere with your rights.
There are still too many places where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans are targeted for harassment and violence. There are still too many young people out there feeling hopeless and alone.
There are still too many young people out there feeling hopeless and alone. Now we assure them that “it gets better” — but it can still be really hard to believe that. Especially when you turn on the TV and you see a Republican candidate for President literally standing in the courthouse door in Kentucky, calling for people to join him in resisting a Supreme Court ruling, celebrating a county clerk who’s breaking the law by denying other Americans their constitutional rights. Or when Republicans in Indiana pass a law letting businesses deny service to LGBT customers under the guise of religious freedom. Think about how that must sound if you’re a young gay or transgender kid. The message is unmistakable: There’s something wrong with you. You’re not a real citizen. You’re not wanted here, you’re not welcome.
Some of you may know the blog “Humans of New York.” It’s a beautiful site that conducts informal interviews of people as they go about their lives, in New York and even other parts of the world. And the stories they tell are often pretty raw. This past July, Humans of New York posted a picture of its latest subject: a sweet little boy, sitting on a stoop, crying and looking like he was trying very hard not to. And this was his entire interview: “I’m homosexual,” he said. “And I’m afraid about what my future will be and that people won’t like me.”
It was so absolutely heartbreaking. All I wanted to do was find him and give him a hug.
Instead, I wrote to him. I told him that his future was going to be amazing, that he will surprise himself with what he is capable of and all the incredible things he will do. And I said that lots of people will love him and believe in him — and the proof is that I wasn’t the only one who wrote him. Thousands of people from all over the world spoke up to tell him that he is loved and perfect just the way he is.
When I see a brave little guy like that, strong enough to tell someone his fears, strong enough to be honest about who he is, who’s still is terrified of being rejected by the world around him — that tells me we still have work to do.
Because our work isn’t finished until every single person is treated with equal rights and dignity that they deserve — no matter how old they are, no matter where they live, whether it’s New York or Wyoming or anywhere else.
I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. You know the obstacles that remain better than I do. But I want you to know that I get it. I see the injustices and the dangers that you and your families still face. And I’m running for President to end them once and for all.
I talk about my campaign as being about improving the economy so everybody who works hard, does his or her part, can get ahead and stay ahead. But I also talk about enforcing our basic human and civil rights. I’m running for President to stand up for the fundamental rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans. That’s a promise — from one “HRC” to another.
What does that mean? Well, I’ll fight to end discrimination wherever it occurs. It’s outrageous that, in 2015, you can still be fired for being gay. You can still lose your home for being gay. You can even be denied a wedding cake for being gay. And this kind of discrimination goes against everything we stand for as a country.
Congress must pass the federal Equality Act. That law would finally outlaw discrimination against LGBT people basically everywhere — in employment, housing, public education, public accommodations, access to federal funding and credit, and in the jury system. It’s a great, noble piece of legislation that deserves to become the law of the land. As President, I will fight for it. And I hope that many of you will be there with me when I sign it into law.
You know I have a particular commitment to healthcare. I like to say that I still have the scars to show for what we tried to do back in the ‘90s, and I’m particularly concerned about healthcare for the LGBT community. One of many reasons why the Affordable Care Act is a good law is that it made it illegal for health insurers to deny coverage because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. But I’ve been hearing from people as I travel around the country, too many LGBT people still struggle to get the care you need. All the Republican governors who refused to accept the Medicaid expansion because they don’t like the Affordable Care Act are doing a lot of harm to people with HIV and AIDS who need Medicaid to afford the medications that keep them healthy.
Meanwhile, you may have read recently about a drug that’s been around for decades that went from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill — literally overnight, a 5000% increase. What is not talked about enough is that medication is one that many HIV-positive patients rely on every day. Now, with pressure from me and others, the CEO of the drug company says he’ll lower the price. But he hasn’t done it yet. And every day that he stalls, people with HIV are forced to worry and wait and pay hundreds of dollars more for medication that keeps them well. That is wrong and as President, I’ll take on the drug companies, I’ll cap out-of-pocket expenses for people with chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS. You shouldn’t have to go bankrupt to get the care you need to stay alive and healthy.
And I will continue the fight for LGBT people in our armed services. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is over — but that doesn’t change the fact that more than 14,000 men and women were forced out of the military for being gay, some long before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” even existed. Many were given less than honorable discharges. I can’t think of a better way to thank those men and women for their service than by upgrading their service records, and making sure they get the honorable discharge they deserve.
Meanwhile, transgender people are still banned from serving. That is an outdated rule — especially since you and I know that there are transgender people in uniform right now. They’re just keeping this core part of their identities under wraps because they are so committed to defending our nation. They shouldn’t have to do that. That’s why I support the policy review that Defense Secretary Carter recently announced at the Pentagon. And it’s why I hope the United States joins many other countries that let transgender people serve openly. Now we pride ourselves on having the world’s best military — but being the best doesn’t just mean having the best-trained forces or biggest arsenal. It also means being a leader on issues like this — on who we respect enough to let serve with dignity as themselves.
I’ll fight to defend lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents. Eleven states ban same-sex couples and LGBT individuals from adopting. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of kids in foster care are ready — in fact, eager — to become part of loving families. This to my mind is one of the cruelest vestiges of anti-gay bigotry. And it’s also really cruel to those kids. Being a good parent has absolutely nothing to do with your sexual orientation or your gender identity. The thousands of happy, healthy children out there being raised by LGBT parents proves that. And as President, I will push to cut off federal funding for any public child welfare agency that discriminates against LGBT people. For me there is no excuse — none — for hurting children and families like this.
Now I could go on and on. There’s so much more for us to do.
We’ve got to stand with young people across the country trying to live like the teenagers they are. Going to the prom with your boyfriend or girlfriend is a rite of passage that every young person deserves, don’t you think?
We’ve got to address the growing crisis of transphobic violence. 2015 has seen the murder of at least 19 transgender women, primarily women of color, and nobody knows how much violence goes unreported or ignored. And we need to say with one voice that transgender people are valued, they are loved, they are us, and they deserve to be treated that way.
And let me ask you also to keep standing up for the human rights of the LGBT community worldwide. Hundreds of millions of people live in places where they can be arrested, even executed, for being gay. Just a few days ago, the president of Zimbabwe stood up at the UN and gave a furious speech about the dangers of equal rights for gay people. According to him, in Zimbabwe he said, “We are not gays.” Now I’m guessing the LGBT activists sitting in prison in Zimbabwe would disagree with him if ever given the chance to have a platform like he had.
That’s why in 2011 I did, as Chad said, go to Geneva to say what should be obvious but needed saying — that gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights. Because I believe with all my heart that the United States does have to stand up for human rights everywhere. It’s who we are. And under my presidency, it’s who we’ll continue to be.
The Global Equality Fund that some of you helped get me started needs to continue and grow so we can help protect activists, we can bail people out of prison, we can support publications and online outreach so that people don’t feel so alone, and they get a chance for their voices to be heard.
I will do my part to make sure that these issues get the attention they deserve in the presidential campaign, and more importantly, in the White House. Now I know you’ve had your share of politicians speaking out, courting your support at election time, and then disappearing — as if your lives and your rights are just a political bargaining chip. Well, those who know me know that’s not me. I’ve been fighting alongside you and others for equal rights — and I’m just getting warmed up.
But to quote one of my favorite Americans — Eleanor Roosevelt — when you get into the public arena, you do need to grow skin as thick as a rhinoceros. So everybody get started, because we’re going to face some ridiculousness, especially from our friends in the GOP. In fact, it’s already begun. Ben Carson says that marriage equality is what caused the fall of the Roman Empire. Ted Cruz slammed a political opponent for marching in a Pride parade. He clearly has no idea what he’s missing. Pride parades are so much fun! I was marching in them back when I was First Lady. You should join us sometime, Senator, come on!
There are sure to be more comments like these and more hurtful ones. And I want to say something to you because I know a number of you. I’m so proud to call you friends and supporters, but I hope you will continue to reach out, particularly to young people who hear these things on television, who may be in their community or their family still, are treated so harshly. It’s important that you stand with them as we continue to push the agenda that is necessary to end discrimination at home and abroad.
We’re going to hear a lot from the folks running on the other side, and I want to tell you, believe what they say. If any one of them, heaven forbid, were ever to be elected President, they will do their best to enact policies that will threaten you and your families. Every single Republican candidate for president is against marriage equality. Every one of them. Many of them are against anti-discrimination laws. Many are against same-sex couples adopting. See if you are ever in a forum with any of them, if you can get them to say the word “transgender.”
The stakes in this election are high for the country. They’re high for so much of what we believe in and the progress we want to continue to make. It can be undone. President Obama’s executive actions can be rescinded. The next president may get three Supreme Court justice appointments. We could lose the Supreme Court and there could be a whole new litigation strategy coming from those who oppose marriage equality. We have got to stay focused, stay united. You deserve a president who will bring people together — who won’t leave anyone behind. That is what I will do, because I know from my own personal experience, the folks on the other side — you have got to give them credit — they never quit. Their persistence is admirable although it is hard to believe what they use it for.
You’ve shown me a lot of generous support over the years, and I deeply appreciate that. A number of you have taught me a lot, embraced me and my family, you have made me a better first lady and a better senator and a better secretary of state — and with your help, I’ll be an even better president.
Let me end with this because I never make a speech these days without mentioning my granddaughter. In case you haven’t heard, she just turned one. And her grandfather and I are convinced that she’s the smartest, funniest, most wonderful baby. It means we’re pretty typical grandparents, so I’ll spare you the slideshow.
But I find myself thinking a lot about the country and the world she will grow up in. Whether it will be safe and healthy and just. Her generation, hopefully, will be even better when it comes to accepting people’s differences — just like my daughter’s generation was better than mine. Our children have a lot of wisdom.
I want my granddaughter to feel bold, and brave, and supported enough that she can be who she is — whoever that turns out to be. That’s what all our kids and our grandkids deserve. And parents and grandparents all over the country should want the same for their families.
So I want to thank you for being on the front lines of what has been an amazing struggle, but which has accomplished so much in a relatively short period of time. I think about that everyday on the campaign trail, like when I met a man in Iowa, who gushed to me about the daughter he adopted years ago with his partner. And now his granddaughter is now the light of his life. Or the mom of a transgender girl in Las Vegas who just wanted to know how in the world her daughter was going to get the medical care she needed.
I think about all the moms and dads — all of you out there — all the parents who worry about whether their families will be OK. Whether the hospital will let both moms into the emergency room with their sick kid. Whether teachers and classmates will be kind and accepting. Whether law enforcement will treat them right. All those millions of worries, large and small, that same-sex parents and LGBT Americans think about every day.
Well I think about them too. Because your families matter to me and you matter to me. I’m going to keep as I have throughout my life fighting for you — your rights, your children, your futures.
I’m fighting for an America where, if you do your part, you do reap the rewards. Where we don’t leave anyone out. Where if you work hard and do your part, you can pursue your dreams however you define them. You can make the most of your God-given potential. That’s what I’m fighting for. And I’m proud to be fighting right alongside you.
Thank you all!