Hillary Clinton took the opportunity to underline her support for LGBT rights in the Democratic presidential candidates’ town hall meeting in Las Vegas Thursday night, two days before the Nevada caucus.
The town hall, sponsored by MSNBC and Telemundo, allowed for questions from pre-selected audience members as well as from moderators Chuck Todd and José Díaz-Balart. The subject of marriage equality came up during an exchange with Joe Sacco, a Las Vegas real estate agent, who identified himself as a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Sacco asked her why she wouldn’t release transcripts or recordings of speeches she made to large financial firms, and she replied that she’d release anything she has when other candidates, including Sanders, do the same regarding their speeches to private groups. She also said she would be a tough regulator of the financial industry.
Sacco wasn’t quite satisfied, and responded, “Secretary Clinton, I do respect you very much. In fact, only a decade ago I was a very, very big supporter of yourself and your husband. It actually broke my heart when you said marriage was between a man and a woman. How can we trust that this isn’t just more political rhetoric?”
Clinton told him, “You know, I, like many Americans, have evolved. And I’m glad I have. I am a 100 percent supporter and I am absolutely adamant about protecting marriage equality.”
She also pointed to her endorsement by the Human Rights Campaign, which Sanders called an “establishment” organization (he later said he meant the group’s leadership, not its grassroots supporters). “Well, with all due respect, they fight against the establishment every single day, and I’ve been with them for years, and I will pass the Equality Act too,” she said, referring to the comprehensive LGBT rights legislation pending in Congress. (Sanders, by the way, has endorsed the Equality Act as well and is a marriage equality supporter).
Sacco later tweeted that he was still not satisfied with Clinton’s response to the transcripts question.
— Joe Sacco (@MrJoeSacco) February 19, 2016
LGBT rights came up again a bit later when audience member Mary Chapman asked how Clinton would deal with other countries, including U.S. allies, that oppress women and children. The candidate responded, “I went to Beijing in 1995 and said women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights. And I believe that with all my heart. When I was secretary of State, I put women’s rights at the center of our foreign policy.”
“So it will be a huge issue for me,” she continued. “And, you know? I also raised gay rights. I went to Geneva and I made a speech about how gay rights are human rights because the people who are often the most oppressed and mistreated right now in a lot of countries are LGBT.”
Clinton appeared onstage in the second hour of the town hall; Sanders appeared in the first hour. He didn’t get any questions touching on LGBT rights, although both he and Clinton got queries about a situation involving a gay business executive, Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is defying a court order for access to private data on an iPhone used by one of the perpetrators of December’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif. Cook says that would ultimately endanger other customers’ privacy. Clinton and Sanders both walked a fine line on the matter, saying that concerns about both privacy and safety needed to be addressed.
Other issues addressed in the town hall included economics and immigration. Both said they favor raising the federal minimum wage; Sanders says to $15 an hour over the next several years, Clinton to $12 under federal law, with states encouraged to set a higher minimum if they feel it’s necessary. Audience member Cameron Miller, a filmmaker, asked Sanders how he’d keep the cost of higher wages from being passed on to consumers.
Sanders, after saying that no one working 40 hours a week should live in poverty, acknowledged, “The truth is yes, you may end up paying a few cents more for a hamburger at McDonald’s. But you will be, if you’re that worker going from $8 or $10 an hour to $15 an hour, you’re going to be a lot better off.”
He added, “When we put money into the hands of working people, you know what, when that happens they can go out and buy products. They can go shopping. And when they do that, they create jobs.”
Sanders also got a query about how he’d pay for his plan to have all public colleges and universities be tuition-free. That’s estimated to cost $70 billion a year. “I think that we should impose a tax on Wall Street speculation,” he said. “It is Wall Street’s time to help the middle class of this country. That will raise all the money that we need.”
He and Clinton both got queried about comprehensive immigration reform, which both said they support, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Sanders noted that he voted against a 2007 immigration bill that included a guest worker provision he likened to slavery, but voted for what he considered a better bill in 2013; it passed the U.S. Senate but not the House. He said he’d do what’s possible through executive action on immigration reform and push Congress on the rest, while Clinton committed to introducing an immigration reform bill in her first 100 days in office, including repeal of the three- and 10-year bans on returning immigrants.
Both vowed to fight racism, sexism, and other bigotry. A Muslim physician in the audience asked Sanders how he’d address Islamophobia, and the candidate said, “Bluntly and directly.”
Sanders added, “People can disagree about immigration and immigration reform. I believe we need comprehensive immigration reform taking people out of the shadows. But it is absolutely unacceptable to me that in the year 2016 we have people like Donald Trump and others who are trying to gain votes by scapegoating people who may be Muslims or people who may be Latinos.”
And a young woman asked if Sanders considers himself a feminist, and how he, as a white man, could relate to the intersectional identities of people of color. “I consider myself a strong feminist,” he replied. “And, in fact, Gloria Steinem — everybody knows Gloria is one of the leading feminists in America — made me an honorary woman many, many years ago.” He also said his economic policies would particularly benefit minority women, who on average make 54 cents on the dollar compared to men.
Watch some highlights below, and go here for more.