Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in USA Today.
Hillary Clinton supports gay marriage. This is a major shift. Yet, as someone who wrote a book on Clinton's faith, I can't say I'm surprised.
Hillary Clinton is a lifelong Christian, a committed member of the United Methodist Church. She had long been committed to marriage as between one man and one woman. As once noted by the Rev. Don Jones, Clinton's youth minister and mentor in Park Ridge, Ill., in the 1960s: “Surely, she is for gay rights. There's no question about that. But I think both she and Bill still think of heterosexuality as normative.”
It was in that spirit that Hillary Clinton supported the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by her husband, President Bill Clinton. The law bans federal recognition of gay marriage and allows states to ignore same-sex unions licensed elsewhere.
Not long after that, her position on various gay rights issues was consistently challenged and began a slow evolution—most notably as she campaigned for New York's Senate seat in 2000. In December 1999, speaking to gay contributors at a New York fundraiser, she said she supported “domestic-partnership measures” that permitted homosexual partners to receive the same benefits as married couples. Significantly, however, her spokesperson stressed that she continued to support the Defense of Marriage Act. She made that stance clear a few weeks later in White Plains, N.Y.: “Marriage has historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman.”
Nonetheless, Hillary Clinton's position remained a burning, unavoidable issue.
In June 2003, Sen. Clinton introduced legislation to grant homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. With that, her position on marriage had not substantially or publicly changed. Privately, however, she might have been starting to reconsider.
In the New York Post the next month, Deborah Orin reported that Mrs. Clinton suddenly wouldn’t take a position on the Defense of Marriage Act, and that Bill Clinton’s office was notably silent on whether the former president still backed the bill he signed into law. Orin quoted Hillary Clinton spokeswoman Karen Dunn, who said, “This issue is in a state of evolution.”
It sure was.
What was going on? Was Mrs. Clinton suddenly conflicted?
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the book, “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.” His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."