If U.S. media reports are to be believed, Hillary Clinton will end years of speculation tomorrow, and throw her hat in the ring for a second shot at the American presidency, in the 2016 election.
Having previously bid to be the Democratic Party's nominee in 2008, she was ultimately tipped to the post by Barack Obama, who went on to win against the Republican John McCain. By appointing her his Secretary of State - the highest position within the cabinet - President Obama not only healed the rift that had torn their party apart, but set Clinton up in a high profile, international role, which boosted her foreign policy credibility. After stepping down following a four year term - during which she visited a record 112 countries and covered 956,733 miles - there has never been any real doubt that she would ultimately be his successor as Democratic Party leader. And from an LGBT perspective, there's really no better woman to do so.
Just like President Obama, Hillary Clinton's position on gay equality has evolved across her political career - which began when she was elected Senator for New York in 2001 - largely being refreshed by public opinion. In 2003, she supported civil unions for same-sex relationships, but not marriage, saying the American people probably weren't ready for it. She told CBS
, "I think that the vast majority of Americans find [same-sex marriage] to be something they can't agree with. But I think most Americans are fair. And if they believe that people in committed relationships want to share their lives and, not only that, have the same rights that I do in my marriage, to decide who I want to inherit my property or visit me in a hospital, I think that most Americans would think that that's fair and that should be done."
In 2007, she said she would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, on a national level; but she maintained that legalisation of same-sex marriage should be left to individual states to decide. Finally, in 2013, in a video for the Human Rights Campaign
, she came out in favour of gay marriage, "personally and as a matter of policy and law".
Furthermore, despite her husband having introduced the U.S. military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, banning openly gay people from serving, Clinton spoke to ABC against the law in 2007
- admitting that it wasn't working. "We are being deprived of thousands of patriotic men and women who want to serve their country who are bringing skills into the armed services that we desperately need." The law was overturned by Obama in 2011.
Perhaps Clinton's most notable LGBT moment was her historic speech to mark International Human Rights Day in 2011
, where - echoing her 1995 speech on women's rights - she declared that "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights". Speaking before an assembly of global delegates, she received a mixed response as she said it should never be a crime to be gay. While many in the room gave her a rousing standing ovation, other delegates walked out during her speech, in the face of what they deemed to be a personal attack on the laws of their countries.
[youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIqynW5EbIQ[/youtube]
As U.S. President for the 2016-2020 term (and possibly another after that), it's not inconceivable that Hillary Clinton could be the President to give America equal marriage. It certainly won't come from a Republican winner, most of whom have recently rallied to support 'religious freedom' in the face of gay equality. Regardless, having a huge LGBT advocate serving as leader of the free world would have enormous symbolic significance, and would send out a strong message to parts of the world with less than perfect records on LGBT rights.
That's without even getting into the historic prospect of a female President. Vladimir Putin once dismissed her, saying "it's better not to argue with women"
- but such sexist notions may get a startling bolt of reality if Clinton smashes the ultimate glass ceiling. He will have to negotiate with her, whether he likes it or not. First of all though, she needs to win.
Unlike almost any other candidate in the history of the American presidency, Hillary Clinton faces the unique problem of being too popular. As a former First Lady, she's one of the most famous women in the world, already affording the attention of a senior global stateswoman, and yet she still hasn't attained her country's highest office. She faces the challenge of having to downplay an outstanding CV, unrivalled experience, dazzling charisma and that famous Clinton brand, in order to reconnect with the average American, whose vote she will need in 2016. The woman who has dined with Queens, and negotiated with Kings, will have to show that she can get back to basics on a campaign trail around America's heartlands. It's already being reported that her team are working hard to take the 'I' out of her campaign, and to bring it down to the 'we' that served Obama so well.
Hillary's candidacy won't go without a bump - she has questions to answer. Until last month, the only blotch on her record was the murder of the Libyan Ambassador in Tripoli by Islamic militants in 2012 - something for which she has already accepted responsibility. But then came 'email-gate', when it was revealed in March that Clinton had effectively broken the law by not using her government email address during her time as Secretary of State, but rather, her own personal account. Critics questioned whether she may have been hiding something, and when asked to hand over her emails, she admitted 30,000 had been conveniently deleted. In fact, her whole server had been deleted. Her opponents' dreams of exposing dodgy dealings within the Clinton Foundation were crushed, and she has yet to deal with the issue head on.
It's likely the Democratic Party has quietly accepted Clinton as their preferred candidate, but a few other names may throw their hat in the ring for the initial primaries - notably Senator Elizabeth Warren, and perhaps Vice President Joe Biden - to show Clinton has been tested, and thus avoiding any criticism of a very un-American 'coronation'. She will then face the full force of the Republican Party, with high profile candidates like Jeb Bush and Rand Paul already in the running. The presence of Bush No.3 in the race means that many of the arguments over dynasty and entitlement which the Republicans would love to throw at Mrs Clinton, are immediately redundant.
It may seem we've waited a long time for Hillary Clinton to announce. But considering the Democratic Party won't start voting for their candidate until primaries and caucuses kick off in January 2016, they won't inaugurate the winner until summer, and the main election day itself isn't until 8th November, we're only just getting started.