Reprinted with permission of Philadelphia Gay News
Chelsea Clinton took a break from campaigning to speak with our sister publication, Philadelphia Gay News. She talked about her time in Pennsylvania — an increasingly important swing state in the race that pits her mother, Democrat Hillary Clinton, against Republican Donald Trump.
“We’re continuing to make the case about what’s really at stake in this election,” Clinton said. “I firmly believe if we keep talking about what’s at stake that we will win on Nov. 8.”
LGBT issues took center stage at the Democratic National Convention with nearly every speaker mentioning them, including you saying LGBT rights are human rights. But in the debates so far, LGBT rights haven’t received attention. Do you think the last debate will address them more directly?
I’m grateful that my mom talked about marriage equality in terms of what’s at stake for the next Supreme Court appointment. I certainly hope that the Senate will do its job and give Judge [Merrick] Garland a full and fair hearing so that we can have a fully seated court. But, certainly, thinking about what the next president will likely have before her, it will be the chance and the responsibility to nominate three, maybe even four, new justices to the bench. I have been surprised that LGBT rights and human rights more broadly — I mean, reproductive rights, voting rights, so many of our rights that have been under assault at the state level and local level — haven’t featured more broadly in the debates. I was quite surprised that even in the vice-presidential debate, given Gov. Pence’s regressive record in Indiana, that LGBT rights and civil and human rights did not come up. I am grateful — as an American who strongly believes that LGBT rights are human rights and therefore all of us have a stake in achieving full equality under the law — that my mom talked about the need to protect marriage equality in the last debate; in the context of the potential nominees that Donald Trump has floated as almost uniformly being against marriage equality. But I certainly agree that we need to pay more attention to LGBT rights. I certainly hope that we get there in the next debate, but whether or not we actually do remains to be seen.
In your travels through Pennsylvania, what has your engagement been like with LGBT residents and organizations?
The event I did this morning here in Pittsburgh was focused on women’s issues. But I got a question from a young woman who stood up and said, “I need to ask a question on behalf of my gay younger brother. What is your mom going to do to ensure that he can be and love whoever he wants to be and love in our country?” And a woman came up to me afterwards — she was a bisexual woman — and she said, “I just want to thank you for your personal and your family’s support of me.” Even in public events, thankfully, people are standing up and drawing attention and sharing stories and testimonials about what’s at stake in this election for themselves, for their families and for their country. I do think this is the most consequential election of my lifetime. I think everything I care most about, which I now very much see through the prism of being a parent, is at risk and is at stake. That includes LGBT rights. My son is 3 and a half [months]. My daughter’s 2. I have no idea who they’re going to grow up and discover themselves to be. But I want them to own whoever they are and know that they will be equally valued, and hopefully by the time they’re a little bit older, equally loved and respected in our country. I feel very strongly about this as a mom.
If your mom and Tim Kaine are elected, what is their plan to begin tackling the many LGBT points that are written into the latest Democratic Party Platform?
I think the contrast could not be clearer between the Democratic and the Republican party platforms. It’s something that I spoke about in Philadelphia at the HRC luncheon [in July] with how horrified I was and I remain about the Republican Party Platform’s embrace of conversion therapy, which I think is just child abuse by another name. I know that my mother strongly agrees with that. We have to make conversion therapy illegal. We have to finally pass the Equality Act. We have to continue the march toward an AIDS-free generation, particularly given the deeply worrying demographic trend of rising HIV rates among certain demographics across our country, including young LGBT men of color … We have a lot of work that we have to do. If we listen to our scientific community — and I’m a big believer in listening to our scientific community — we have to be investing more in research because the scientists are saying we’re reaching inflection points on an AIDS vaccine. We’re reaching inflection points on really understanding how to ensure that PrEP can be most effective. We have to make those investments. Then we have to make sure that people can afford the medicine that is needed to protect against getting HIV or ensure that HIV can be a chronic disease and not a death sentence. We have a lot of work to do. I know my mom’s the only person who understands the work that we have to do.
Does your mom foresee any difficulty in terms of working with Congress to get some of these goals accomplished given how vitriolic this election cycle has become?
I think what someone has done is a good indication of what they will be able to do. It always, I think, is a little surprising when I talk about my mom’s strong record of being able to find common ground when it does exist, and sometimes to help create it, even from just a small speck of hope; [like] when she worked with Tom DeLay [former Republican whip] to reform the adoption and foster-care system and Lindsey Graham [Republican senator from South Carolina] to expand the VA system to include our reservists and National Guard members who serve our country overseas. I think that my mom’s ability to find that common ground will enable her to make progress in some of the areas where, certainly, there was already progress being made . ..looking at criminal-justice reform, immigration reform. But hopefully, in areas like research funding, which conventionally hasn’t been particularly partisan, we can make real progress there. We can’t ever cede ground on issues that really relate to our core values as a country. I would argue that full LGBT equality has to be in that core. I’m hopeful that she will be able to make progress in some areas quickly, and I am hopeful that … as our next president, she’ll be able to continue to make a strong case on behalf of our real American and real family values and make progress toward full LGBT equality as well.
Your mother has actively courted the LGBT community throughout her campaign. Why did she want to write the op-ed for PGN outlining her positions?
She was grateful to have the chance to write the op-ed … I think she was the first major-party presidential candidate to ever write an op-ed for an LGBT newspaper. I know she believes it’s really important that she’s not the only [one] as the future marches forward. She was grateful to have had the chance. It never occurred to her to not write it when she was given the opportunity.
Chelsea Clinton photo by Ali Shaker/VOA