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Clinton's VP Possibilities and Their LGBT Rights Records

Clinton's VP possiblities

Hillary Clinton's running mate could be a strong supporter of LGBT rights, a fair-to-middling one, or, in one case, a big question mark.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is expected to announce her running mate Friday, and political prognosticators have narrowed the list of likely vice presidential picks down to a few names. Here’s a look at where they stand on LGBT causes.

Tim Kaine: The U.S. senator from Virginia, formerly the state’s governor, is said to be near the top of the list. Kaine, considered a moderate, was once only a lukewarm supporter of LGBT causes and an outright opponent of marriage equality. In 2001, when he was running for lieutenant governor of Virginia, he told the Associated Press, “I have never said I supported gay civil unions, gay marriages. I do believe that people shouldn’t be kicked out of their jobs or discriminated against because of who they are.” He did say he supported some way to give same-sex couples in long-term relationships access to certain benefits enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples. But in 2006, as governor, he campaigned against a measure to amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage; it passed anyway. When running for governor in 2005, he opposed adoption rights for gay couples or individuals, but by 2011, running for Senate, he had changed his mind and said they should be able to adopt if a judge determined that it was the best interest of the child. As governor he issued an executive order banning antigay discrimination against state employees. In 2013, his first year in the Senate, he announced his support for marriage equality. So far in his Senate service, he has received a 90 percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign's Congressional Scorecard.  

Tom Vilsack: President Obama’s secretary of Agriculture since 2009, Vilsack was Iowa’s governor from 1999 to 2007. In 1999 he issued an executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees, and in his inaugural address for his second term, in 2003, he urged legislators to pass a law protecting all Iowans from such discrimination. They finally did so in 2007, after he had left office, and his successor, fellow Democrat Chet Culver, signed the bill into law. In 2006 he hosted the first Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBT Youth; this has continued as an annual event, although conservative legislators have tried to stop it. In 2011, as secretary of Agriculture, he added gender identity and expression to the department’s civil rights statement, which already included sexual orientation. During his term the department has also participated in events addressing LGBT issues in rural America and initiated mandatory training for all employees on how to avoid anti-LGBT discrimination. Once a supporter of civil unions instead of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, in 2011 he praised the Iowa Supreme Court justices, most of whom he appointed, who ruled for marriage equality in the state two years earlier but declined to comment on the subject of nationwide marriage equality. He apparently is a marriage equality supporter now. 

Tom Perez: The secretary of Labor, formerly an assistant U.S. attorney general, has a long record of supporting LGBT rights. As an assistant attorney general, he was in charge of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where he oversaw the implementation of the LGBT-inclusive Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which Congress passed and President Obama signed into law in 2009. That year, Perez also testified in Congress in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He has continued his support of LGBT rights as secretary of Labor, a post he assumed in 2013. He faced some criticism in 2014 for a delay in confirming the interpretation that Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, in banning sex discrimination, also bans discrimination based on gender identity. But he finally did issue a statement of confirmation. In a 2015 blog post, he commented favorably on that year’s Supreme Court marriage equality ruling and the general progress in LGBT rights. He also recognized pioneers in this area, such as Frank Kameny, who was fired from a government job in the 1950s for being gay — and fought back.

James Stavridis: He’s a retired four-star admiral, but there’s little record of his thoughts on military service by LGBT people, or any other LGBT issue. The former supreme allied commander of NATO, Stavridis is now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts. Tufts does include sexual orientation and gender identity in its nondiscrimination statement. Clinton is said to be considering Stavridis because of his foreign policy expertise. As late as this week, however, he has been unwilling to come right out and support Clinton, telling Fox News only that he’s “leaning” toward voting for her.

Cory Booker: The youthful Booker is considered a long shot for the veep spot, but he would bring a strong record of LGBT allyship to the ticket. The former mayor of Newark, N.J., and now a U.S. senator, Booker has been a firm supporter of marriage equality. As Newark mayor, Booker performed several of the first same-sex marriages in New Jersey when marriage equality came to his state via court ruling in 2013, and he even shut down a heckler during one of the ceremonies. In April 2015, as the U.S. Supreme Court prepared to consider the case that would bring equal marriage rights to the entire nation, Booker gave an impassioned pro-equality speech in the Senate. He has a solid 100 percent score from the HRC Congressional Scorecard since joining the Senate. He joined the Senate via special election in 2013 to fill the remainder of the late Frank Lautenberg’s term, then was elected to a full six-year term in 2014. Booker has been rumored to be gay, and he says he’s not, but he doesn’t mind the rumors “because I want to challenge people on their homophobia,” he once told The Washington Post. While a student at Stanford University in the 1990s, he wrote a column for the school newspaper about how he overcame his own homophobia.

Elizabeth Warren: The senator from Massachusetts, beloved by progressives, has been spending a lot of time with Clinton, but recent media reports say she’s a long shot for running mate, too. Warren was a law professor for 30 years, including 20 at Harvard, before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. She was the driving force behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and she’s been a champion of the rights of LGBT people, women, the working class, and other marginalized groups — groups generally supported by Democrats, but Warren has been particularly active on their behalf. She has a 100 percent score from the HRC since joining the Senate, and she has expressed pride in the fact that Massachusetts has taken the lead on marriage equality and other LGBT causes. In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, she and Booker joined House members in a sit-in calling for stronger gun control laws, and she and out Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin are leading an effort to persuade the Food and Drug Administration to lift its ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with another man in the past year.

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