Talking it Over - Hillary’s Silence

“Clinton Silent on Same-Sex Marriage” read the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle after a July political fund-raiser with Democrats in San Francisco. New York’s United States Senator Hillary Clinton stood with equal marriage advocates San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, state Assemblyman Mark Leno, and state treasurer and California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides for pictures and questions but refused to acknowledge inquiries on the New York State Court ruling upholding a ban on same-sex marriage just the day before (Chronicle, July 8, 2006).
The Chronicle reiterated Clinton’s view from a 1996 interview in when she told a reporter, “Children are better off if they have a mother and a father. My preference is that we do all we can to strengthen traditional marriage.”
Newsom, of course, made national news in 2004 when he allowed marriage licenses, later invalidated by the state Supreme Court, to same-gender couples in San Francisco. Leno has written numerous marriage equality bills in the state legislature, the last of which passed but was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. He is ready to put another marriage equality bill before the legislature on December 4. Angelides, running for governor this year, has said he will sign such a bill into law.
Hillary, it is ten years down the road from your original comments. Have you learned nothing? Marriage equality is a civil rights issue. Now is the time to get on board. As a viable candidate for President of the United States are you not interested in equality and justice for all?
Your comments on doing all we can to strengthen traditional marriage are fine. It’s okay to believe that children are better off with a mother and a father, but that’s not what’s happening to nearly half the nation’s children. The reality of children’s lives today is that many are raised from heterosexual coupling with only a mother or, less frequently, only a father. In 1972, 73 percent of children lived with their biological parents, who were married. By 1998, 51.7 percent lived in such households (University of Chicago Chronicle, Dec. 2, 1999).
Many children are raised in split households with week and weekend parenting. Often these children find themselves with two sets of mothers or two sets of fathers as divorced heterosexuals form new relationships for themselves, and consequently their children. Some children are handed to grandparents to raise. Then, too, there are children being raised by unmarried heterosexual couples. According to the 2000 Census, there are currently 9.7 million Americans living with an unmarried different-sex partner in the U.S. and 41% of all unmarried partner households have children under 18 living in them.
As for same-sex couples, between 1 million and 6 million children in the U.S. are being reared by committed lesbian or gay couples. Dr. Ellen C. Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, reported at the 2005 American Academy of Pediatrics Conference and Exhibition. She said, “There are a lot of children with at least one gay or lesbian parent,” and added that “The vast consensus of all the studies shows that children of same-sex parents do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way. In some ways children of same-sex parents actually may have advantages over other family structures.”
If you want to strengthen traditional marriage, Hillary, you don’t deny marriage to couples of the same gender who have already proven themselves faithful partners for many years or to same-gender couples who are successfully raising happy, well-loved children. To strengthen traditional marriage, you give these couples legitimacy through civil marriage. For marriage itself is the tradition, not that a couple is heterosexual or gay or lesbian. If you truly want to protect children, you give all committed persons who have children or plan to have children legal protection through a civil marriage. And if you want to be fair, you give equal marriage to childless couples who want to spend their lives as intimate partners.
Domestic partnerships are second-class marriages, suitable perhaps to older folks like my partner and myself but totally inadequate for younger Americans who have families to raise. All gay people need to be seen as full citizens entitled to full privileges and responsibilities of citizenship.
You once said that it takes a village to raise a child, Hillary. Our villages are truly global now. Other nations have taken the enlightened view that equal marriage benefits their citizens and have legalized same-gender marriages. Children are the winners here. So are committed couples.
Don’t be silent, Hillary. As a leader who is involved in world affairs, you need to speak out for equality, liberty, and justice for all. Join us in working toward marriage equality. Or be a footnote in history as one of those who refused to embrace the concept of marriage equality as a civil right. Don’t let your silence say it all.
©2006 Kay Mehl Miller
Kay is the author of Talking It Over: Understanding Sexual Diversity. Email her at

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