In a scenario more befitting the RuPaul’s Drag Race workroom than the American presidential race, a torrent of shade emerged from the Bernie Sanders camp today, after Hillary Clinton received the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in the United States.
HRC President Chad Griffin explained the Jan. 19 decision in a statement: “While [the Republicans] fight to take us backwards, Hillary Clinton is fighting to advance LGBT equality across our nation and throughout the world. We are proud to endorse Hillary Clinton for president, and believe that she is the champion we can count on in November—and every day she occupies the Oval Office.”
Given Clinton’s status as the establishment candidate (the HRC is many things, but radical isn’t one of them) and her impressive 24-point LGBT policy pledge (Sanders’ is comparatively limited), the endorsement should shock no one. But nevertheless, the Sanders campaign was not pleased. Spokesman Michael Briggs offered this bit of side-eye to the Washington Blade: “It’s understandable and consistent with the establishment organizations voting for the establishment candidate,” he jabbed, “but it’s an endorsement that cannot possibly be based on the facts and the record.”
Briggs echoed the narrative of Sanders’ having an impeccable history on LGBT issues, describing him to the Blade as “somebody who’s been for gay rights long, long ago” and as having “by far the most exemplary record on gay rights of any candidate ever in American history.” Unsurprisingly, this is a bit overstated. As my Outward colleague Mark Joseph Stern revealed in a post last year, Sanders—while certainly better on queer issues than most—can hardly claim to have been a star ally all along. Indeed, he supported civil unions over same-sex marriage in 2006, and his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 was explained at the time as concern over states’ rights rather than gay people’s right to legally recognized love. What matters, of course, is that the Bern got to where we need him now on most of the issues—but presenting an overly rosy view of the “facts and the record” has a way of tarnishing that otherwise laudable evolution.
For its part, the HRC was not pressed about Sanders’ bad attitude: “There are certainly several friends of equality in this race,” spokesman Brandon Lorenz told the Blade, “but the 32 community leaders who comprise HRC’s Board of Directors have unanimously decided that Hillary Clinton is the champion we need to fight for us each day on the campaign trail and every day in the White House.”
Meanwhile, Clinton was surely shooting out emails full of the nail care emoji.