The Evolution of Leadership: Hillary Clinton and DOMA

DES MOINES, IA - OCTOBER 24: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton 
 speaks to guests at the Jefferson-Jackson D
DES MOINES, IA - OCTOBER 24: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on October 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The dinner is a major fundraiser for Iowa's Democratic Party. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Today, regardless of lessons learned over the years, it is important that every young person understand that Hillary Clinton is one of the most important global voices on LGBT human rights in our time.

In the past few days there has been a lot of talk about Hillary Clinton and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA was a 1996 piece of legislation designed to deny marriage equality to gay couples. President Bill Clinton opted to support DOMA early to take it out of play in advance of the 1996 election. At the time, I headed the largest LGBT advocacy organization, the Human Rights Campaign, and was quite literally in the maelstrom of this painful battle.

How DOMA was handled by the Clinton Administration was wrong. It was constitutionally indefensible. It was also a time when so many Americans were still caught in a fog of misunderstanding about LGBT Americans and the issues that affect our lives. That made for foggy judgment.

In recent days, some have been trying to reconcile presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with the first lady Clinton, circa 1996, on this issue. Here is my take. Putting aside the fact that the decision on DOMA in 1996 was not Hillary's to make, the Hillary of 1996 is not the Presidential Candidate of today. She knows that DOMA was discriminatory and wrong. Her perspective and knowledge on LGBT issues has deepened extensively since those days.

Her views have now been shaped by 20 years of being a serious student of repressive anti-gay global policies around the world; an observer of the devastating effect of anti-gay policies, including DOMA, on friends and family here at home; and, a leader who has had plenty of time to reflect on ways to be very effective in tough political moments. Secretary Clinton has emerged as among the most important global voices on LGBT rights.

This is a Secretary of State that made a historic UN speech, stating simply: "Gay rights are Human rights." And, she implemented the most LGBT supportive human resources policies in the history of the government as both a Senator and Secretary of state. For all of her leadership, I am grateful.

I trust the more experienced and wiser Hillary Clinton of today to lead on this and many other critical issues, both domestically and around the world. We still live in a country where there are no basic LGBT civil rights protections in areas like employment, housing and public accommodation. With the monumental Supreme Court victory on marriage equality behind us, it is time to finish the job. And to complete that work, I will be counting on President Hillary Clinton.