Coming more than 36 hours later, I’m not going to claim to present Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech on Tuesday on LGBT rights as news. It was a great speech though, and well worth watching if you’ve only read the text.
Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same. Now, of course, 60 years ago, the governments that drafted and passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were not thinking about how it applied to the LGBT community. They also weren’t thinking about how it applied to indigenous people or children or people with disabilities or other marginalized groups. Yet in the past 60 years, we have come to recognize that members of these groups are entitled to the full measure of dignity and rights, because, like all people, they share a common humanity.
This recognition did not occur all at once. It evolved over time. And as it did, we understood that we were honoring rights that people always had, rather than creating new or special rights for them. Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.
It is wrong to make legal distinctions, prohibitions against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people because no one should be subject to any special exception from human rights. It is not about creating exceptions, but ending them. Culture and religion can be no excuse for an infringement on human rights.
As I posted on Facebook, she didn’t start being great on Tuesday. This speech consciously mirrors her speech in Beijing at the Fourth World Conference on Women. This is a speech should be read again now by all those inspired by her speech on Tuesday,
It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and for the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights.
These abuses have continued because, for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words. But the voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard loudly and clearly:
It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.
It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution for human greed — and the kinds of reasons that are used to justify this practice should no longer be tolerated.
It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire, and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.
It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.
It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes by their own relatives.
It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.
It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.
If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely — and the right to be heard.
The problems she refers to are unfortunately as alive today as they were 16 years ago, and we must continue to scrutinize our approaches to human rights issues around the world to ensure that we do not place the right to life and personal autonomy of any individual on a lower scale for any reason.
During the 2008 presidential election, I supported Hillary Rodham Clinton as the choice for the Democratic nomination during the primaries, until the “Well that depends on what your definition of sniper fire is” moment. At that point, I thought it the most dignified thing for Clinton to do was to concede defeat what that continuing in a losing battle, though I did not become a fully-throated supporter of Barack Obama. Looking back, it was ultimately a good thing in many respects that she fought to the end, giving all states a chance to express their choice for the nomination, and giving Obama more opportunities to debate before the general. Had I been a Clinton supporter in South Dakota, I would have been pleased with her decision to contest to the end.
My reasons for supporting Clinton were that her experience in Washington as a Senator since 2001 had shown her ability to work with people in the skills of negotiating legislation. She had built up relationships with Republican as well as Democratic Senators. Of course, were she to be president, old partners as cosignatories on bills would become partisan, but that instinctive knowledge of where others stood would have been an advantage to her. Her experience as First Lady were also relevant. Something that would certainly not be true of all political spouses, she was an active political player during President Clinton’s term of office. In fact, she had had clear experience with the issue which was to be a major one during both the campaign and the first year of President Obama’s year in office, that of health care. Ultimately, what became known as Hillarycare did not succeed, but it did give her that background on the issue.
Originally written as a Facebook note
What I dislike about Obama, but why I will probably continue to back him
From the beginning of the election campaign last year, I felt inclined to align myself with a candidate, and when it became clear that the Democratic nomination was between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, I backed Ms Clinton. This was partly because I admired how President Clinton handled the economy managing to eliminate deficits, much better than the supposedly fiscally responsible Republican Party during the Reagan years where there were deficits year after year. I would also be very much a Democrat with regard to my positions on so-called cultural issues, being strongly in favour of church-state separation, abortion rights, extending full marital rights to gay couples and taking the equivalent liberal views on other such issues.
The real question of this election, however, was whether to support Barack Obama. That one was in agreement with the direction of the two Clinton terms was for many no reason not to be enthusiastic about supporting Mr Obama, the new light in politics, the man needed to change the way politics is done in Washington. From the start, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic. At first, what I didn’t like about him was that as early as 2004 when he made his speech to the Democratic National Convention, his aim in being in Washington at all was to get to the White House. Alan Greenspan joked when commenting on Nixon that he would like to propose a constitutional amendment saying, “Anyone willing to do what is required to become president of the United States is thereby barred from taking that office” and given the power one person holds if elected, the apprehension here is understandable. The point about Mr Obama’s lack of experience was that he exemplifies the careerist politician for whom any office is only a step to a higher office, who live in the world of the permanent campaign and who we never get to see what they would do legislating or governing. This is not to fault ambition; we undoubtedly need the brightest and most able politicians not to feel satisfied with lower offices than they are worthy of, but to say that before the people elect someone to a higher office, there should be time to observe them acting and voting outside of the glare of high media scrutiny, outside of the context of a campaign.
Mr Obama claims to represent a new kind of politics, and one might think listening to his eloquent speeches that he is a model of bipartisanship. He emphasizes that politics needs to move away from point-scoring and cross-party rivalry. Yet, he has not acted on this in practice, having sponsored no bill of worth a senator from across the floor, something both his rival for the Democratic nomination and his current rival for the White House in Sen. John McCain have done. On Mr Obama’s part, the reason for this was that as a Freshman Senator, and particularly one looking for presidential endorsements, he needed to get to know the fellow members of his party in the short time he had there since January 2005, so avoided stepping away from the party orthodoxy. In his years in the Senate, Mr McCain has worked with Democrats on particular issues, and provoked the ire of his fellow-party members with the Campaign Reform Act in 2002 which he wrote with the socially democratic Russ Feingold and with the immigration reform bill with Ted Kennedy which he championed into the time of the presidential debates last year. (It was amusing to hear one Republican speaker after another at their convention praise his bravery in standing up to the establishment, particularly the very opponents who had slammed him for those positions in the primaries). Even Sarah Palin in her short time as Governor of Alaska has acted with more bipartisanship in her strongly Republican state than has Mr Obama in his time in the United States Senate.
Then there are Mr Obama’s claims to represent a new kind of politics, without lobbying and special interests. Yet his voting record does not stand up to this. He voted for Bush’s now widely discredited Energy Policy Act in 2005, which cost that United States taxpayer by subsidises the economically and environmentally inefficient ethanol industry as a vain attempt to find a substitute for oil. The inefficiency of this method was not something that was known only in the past three years, and has been recognized for a while that it also compromises food production. The fact, however, that farmers in Mr Obama’s home state of Illinois was a factor in his support for this flawed bill. The question of global free trade is not by a great deal an open one in economics and most educated politicians know this, that the benefits of trade outweight any losses and that it is the country that allows more imports that benefits most. Despite this, in the first half of the year, while debating Ms Clinton, he continually stoked protectionist feelings among voters, while Mr McCain risked elections in Iowa and Michigan by telling them the truth that he should not and would not protect their local industries from outside competition. Now, having secured the nomination, Mr Obama casually dismisses his previous remarks by saying that language got overheated during the primary season.
This brings me on to my next point, about Mr Obama’s lack of honesty. It was Ms Clinton’s “Well, that depends on what your definition of sniper fire” moment that prompted me to stop backing her, as it shows quite an act of desperation to fabricate an entire event to show foreign policy experience. Mr Obama’s dishonesty is of a different sort. Arriving in Chicago to embark on a political career, and as far as I can tell from his second memoir, The Audacity of Hope, fairly much agnostic, he chose to attend Trinity United Church of Christ. Not just a middle-of-the-road episcopalian or methodist church but a megachurch with a slightly unstable pastor, that Mr Obama was able to conveniently cast aside after first claiming that it would be tantamount to disclaiming a family member. He is not open matters that could be divisive, with the weasel answer, “That’s above my pay grade” when asked difficult questions about abortion.
But when it comes to who I hope will be president in January, I have to return to my first paragraph. I wrote this to answer a few comments on my status indicating support for Mr McCain over Mr Obama, and thought writing a note better than a quick response. I am holding Mr Obama to a higher standard in many areas than I would perhaps other politicians, in large part because of the claims he makes for himself. Despite all I have written above, he is the Democratic nominee. I do trust Mr McCain more with the economy, and while I believe they would act largely the same with regard to Iraq, having advocated the surge in the first place, I think he deserves the credit for its success. But the economy will survive and as long as a serious depression is held at bay, in the long run, the policies of one or the other will not be so different in effect. What does matter in the long term are cultural issues. Mr McCain is not religious evangelical that Presidents Reagan or Bush were, but with the Supreme Court in such a delicate balance, where the retirement or death of one liberal Justice and the appointment of a conservative would put in the control of the latter section. In which case, a test case on Roe v. Wade could find it overturned, as well as changes affecting the separation of church and state. Antonin Scalia is the worst example, but when we have him justifying his support for the death penalty by stating that “few doubted the morality of the death penalty in the age that believed in the divine right of kings”, we can see why there is reason to fear the impact such theocrats can have given the influence they have in shaping the state of the culture of the United States. Not while there are far fewer such Justices on the Bench, and until the Republican Party rids itself of its evangelical wing (such a change is not impossible; the Democrats once had a racist and bigoted wing), could I comfortably support the Republicans. Yes, this does not affect me directly, but were I a United States citizen I would not support such government, despite economic concerns, and I do not think I could wish it on them, even if Mr McCain would be more secure for the Irish economy. And yes, in a country with school prayer and no abortion rights, it may seem hypocritical and irrelevant to complain of such changes across the water, but I can hope for the laws and Constitution of the United States to remain as a standard for ours to achieve.