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ESPA on Kirsten: We like her, we really like her

by Jeremy Hooper

6A00D8341C503453Ef010536Ef5C86970C-PiPast quotes, votes, and findings on incoming senator Kirsten Gillibrand suggested that she is reluctant to support marriage equality and possibly reluctant to repeal the military's ban on openly gay soldiers. However, our pals at the Empire State Pride Agenda, who we trust implicitly when it comes to New York politicians' LGBT positions, brings us a very different story. They just sent us this, their latest release:

January 23, 2009, New York City – Last night likely Senate pick Kirsten Gillibrand spoke to Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle about issues important to New York’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

“After talking to Kirsten Gillibrand, I am very happy to say that New York is poised to have its first U.S. Senator who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples,” said Van Capelle. “She also supports the full repeal of the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) law, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and passage of legislation outlawing discrimination against transgender people. While we had a productive discussion about a whole range of LGBT concerns, I was particularly happy to hear where she stands on these issues.”

Should Governor Paterson name her today to fill the seat held by Hillary Clinton, she will join Governor Paterson, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and numerous other elected officials in the New York State Legislature and across the state who support the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

Pride Agenda

Very encouraging news! We're not sure if Gillibrand has evolved, she was pushed, or if she was never as reluctant as some of her quotes suggested. For now, we're gonna go with it.

Now as for your still-incubating marriage views, Sen. Schumer...

**UPDATE: HRC has also cleared up some matters:

There has been some discussion about Kirsten Gillibrand's stance on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and additional LGBT issues. In particular, we’d like to clarify references to the Human Rights Campaign Scorecard for the 110th Congress.

Although Kirsten Gillibrand did not co-sponsor legislation to repeal DADT, her decision does not mean that Gillibrand supports the policy or would oppose the repeal. In fact, in recent conversations with Kirsten Gillibrand’s office the Human Rights Campaign has confirmed Gillibrand is in favor of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and supports full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

Additionally, HRC confirmed with Gillibran’s staff additional points regarding her LGBT record:

* Supports marriage equality
* Cosponsored and voted in favor of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act
* Cosponsored inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and supports enactment of inclusive bill
* Voted in favor of ENDA
* Supports repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
* Supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act
* Supports equal tax treatment of employer provided domestic partnership benefits
* Voted against allowing discrimination in hiring for the Head Start program
* Voted in favor of allowing Washington, DC to fund needle exchange programs with local funds
* Supports the Early Treatment of HIV/AIDS Act (ETHA) to allow states to provide Medicaid coverage for HIV-positive persons
* Voted against procedural attempts to derail ENDA and hate crimes
* Endorsed by HRC PAC in 2008
Kirsten Gillibrand, Gov. Paterson's pick to replace Hillary Clinton, supports marriage equality and other LGBT issues [HRC Backstory]

**UPDATE: Sen. Gillibrand accepts the post:

*Later in this conference, she mentioned support for marriage equality.

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Your thoughts

LOL, told you so! Once she got away from her upstate NY conservative district and rose to state level, her support for GLBT rights shown through.

Posted by: Bill Ware | Jan 23, 2009 11:45:27 AM

That's great all but she is really counting on support from us too when she runs for reelection, of course, it will be statewide election so YEAH!!!!!

Posted by: LOrion | Jan 23, 2009 1:00:07 PM

and during her introductory speech she said she would work for "marriage equality"

Posted by: Ron | Jan 23, 2009 1:16:19 PM

Yea, I just heard that, Ron. Good. Regardless of the why, I am glad that she has evolved.

I'm wondering if there was some dealmaking on this. Marriage equality is about to become a HUGE matter here, and we know it matters to Patterson.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jan 23, 2009 1:19:38 PM

I owned a gay(ish) bar in her district until last year and live there too. My husband and I were legally married in MA the first day and have been out advocates for marriage equality. Some of her campaign aides asked for us to do some campaigning for her and also help discuss our issues with her. My husband and I met her a couple of times and had a talk with her once about marriage equality, immigration, etc. She couldn't have been more lovely...and she was very adamant about her support of marriage equality. She was "working from within" a district that is very conservative and to some degree sheltered. I heard some comments saying she wasn't for same sex marriage but I think that was just wrong. She definately is for it, even if her support was a little quiet due to the politics of her district. Looks like we scored here...she's a great appointment

Posted by: Sykler | Jan 23, 2009 2:56:46 PM

Sykler: Thanks for sharing. It's good to hear.

As for the initial belief that she wasn't for marriage equality: Those came from earlier comments that she made that trended more towards civil unions:


I've heard many "insider" reasons for her evolution on the issue. The two most popular:

(1) Now that she has expanded her constituency, her political reality has changed. Whereas full marriage support might have been a negative in her district, it's a positive statewide.

(2) There was lots of pressure and deal making to get her to change her position on this.

But that's all hearsay.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jan 23, 2009 3:06:03 PM

As someone who lives in the district bordering Gillibrand's (my representative is Republican John Mchugh), I was happy to see her appointment and am even more pleased to see that she supports marriage equality, something I was desperately hoping for in Clinton's replacement (it wouldn't at all surprise me if she felt this way all along and was only comfortable being open about it after gaining a larger constituency, given the way politics work up here.)

Posted by: Sean | Jan 23, 2009 5:12:03 PM

Agree, Sean. It's a rare set of circumstances that could lead me to change my opinion so drastically overnight. But honestly, after last night's frustration, I now believe that she is as fully on our side as we need her to be. Whether it's because of deal-making, fear of being beaten out by a progressive in 2010, or her own principled conscience, I'm thrilled about what has developed.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jan 23, 2009 5:29:33 PM

my thoughts on her evolution on our issues-better late than never

Posted by: Theo | Jan 24, 2009 5:20:32 AM

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