Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Puts Together a Full-Court Press to Land the LGBT Vote

A rainbow flag in every pot; a law for every slight.


"Let them eat cake! Wait, what?"
Credit: ep_jhu / photo on flickr

Let it not be said that Hillary Clinton is reluctant to see which way the political winds are blowing (not that anybody would say that). Much like Barack Obama, Clinton is a late-comer to same-sex marriage recognition. But now that she's on board, it's full speed ahead. Just before this weekend's Democratic debate, which nobody is going to watch anyway, Clinton has released her campaign platform on LGBT issues.

If anything identifies Clinton as running to be Obama's third term, it's this. A read through the very long agenda shows that she wants to continue with everything the administration is currently pushing for (continuing Obama's actions is actually one of the bullet points) and then some. She wants passage of the Equality Act, an extremely expansive law that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to all federal anti-discrimination policies and drastically increase what kinds of businesses count as a public accommodation under federal jurisdiction. But she also supports the administration's position that "sex discrimination" as described under federal law already covers sexual orientation and gender identity, a novel interpretation that was most certainly not the intent of the anti-discrimination laws when they were written. It's also completely redundant when also pushing for the Equality Act.

Of concern to gay-friendly libertarians: For every grievance, public or private, there is a proposed federal law or government intervention. The campaign notes the problems with states that still have laws that institute discriminatory behavior toward gay couples trying to adopt. Those will get hammered out on the judicial level, no doubt, given the Obergefell decision. But after mentioning state-level discrimination, Clinton's brief muddies the waters by pivoting to private adoption agencies who don't want to work with gay couples. She wants to pass a law to forbid federally funded child welfare agencies from discriminating on the basis of "sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status."

While I've commonly supported the federal government instituting non-discrimination policies for businesses that contract with the government, there's a difference here in that the government is meddling in a system that needs more decentralization, not less. The assumption here is that if an adoption agency does not want to place a child with a gay couple, then that couple (and that child) is just flat out of luck. But that's not how adoption works. Putting restrictive rules that attempt to control the behavior of private adoption agencies could cause them to leave the market. Some are perfectly fine with that and may even celebrate those who they see as bigoted closing their doors. But the end result is fewer people involved in helping parentless children find happy homes. That's a terrible outcome. As long as same-sex couples are able to find agencies that will serve them and place children with them, we should be very, very wary of the federal government trying to push through more rules. (I've warned about these efforts previously.)

Clinton also calls for an end to gay reparative therapy for minors. This is the widely discredited psychological treatment that attempts (and fails) to "cure" homosexuality. While I'm no fan of reparative therapy, this amounts to regulating the speech of therapists under the guise of preventing harm. Psychological therapy has a history of experimental treatments that have turned out to be useless, even harmful, but did not need federal intervention to end. Neither Congress nor the president should be deciding what types of psychotherapy are legitimate.

Clinton's platform, in all, calls for the passage of six specific pieces of legislation on LGBT issues. Beyond that she calls for expanding government services and data in a whole host of other areas, like collecting national data about the actual number of LGBT people in America and increasing funding for programs that fight for LGBT human rights in other countries.

It's not that all of Clinton's LGBT proposals are bad, but rather it's the same problem that there is no interest in the left in differentiating between discrimination caused by the government (bureaucratic bafflement over how to deal with transgender identities) versus what happens in the private sector (wedding cakes). There is absolutely no confidence in the ability for the citizenry to work out issues on their own without government telling them how to behave.

It's all very reminiscent of Elizabeth Nolan Brown's experience at a recent summit on LGBT issues put together by The Atlantic. For every grievance, the government is here to solve it for you. What's missing from this list (and apparently from that Atlantic summit)? What happens when the government actually does use its power to solve grievances over the behavior of private parties. Over the summer, the federal government forcibly shut down Rentboy.com, an extremely popular gay escort site, manipulating a federal law in order to charge its employees with facilitating prostitution. There was no indication that anybody was harmed or trafficked by all this consensual behavior, just that prostitution is illegal and therefore Rentboy had to be shut down. They've had to sell off all their belongings to fund their own defense, because the government has seized their assets. There is nothing in Clinton's platform that suggests that she sees this as a concern. I can't imagine that she does. Many think prostitution is bad. Therefore the government should intervene to stop it.

There was some outrage over the Rentboy raids, but I doubt many (outside libertarian circles) made the connection. When you use the government to solve people's grievances or when you use the government to try to force your perfect world into being, this is what comes of it.

As such, Clinton offering to pass a law or expand executive power for every single LGBT concern should actually make gay people wary. Laws are bonfires. Once they're passed and set blazing, we have very little control over what happens next. If they have not been crafted carefully, they'll spread anywhere the government can force it and people will get burned, their lives turned to ashes.