By Lisa Keen
There were some interesting LGBT moments in the days running up to Monday’s Iowa caucuses: caucuses in which Human Rights Campaign-endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton appears to have essentially split the vote with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders; and an early favorite among some Log Cabin Republicans, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, finished surprisingly strong.
Former Secretary of State Clinton had won 49.9 percent of the Democratic delegates in Iowa Monday night, while Sen. Bernie Sanders appeared to have won 49.6 percent. As of the morning of Feb. 2, Clinton’s campaign declared victory prior to the Iowa caucus official results. Later that day, she was deemed the winner with 22 delegates; Sanders had 21 delegates.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas won the Iowa caucuses by securing 29 percent of the votes for the Republican nomination. Real estate mogul Donald Trump came in second with 24 percent, followed by Rubio with 23 percent.
Cruz had anti-gay Iowa activists Bob Vander Plaats and U.S. Rep. Steve King on stage with him as he made his victory speech Monday night. On that stage, Cruz praised the 48,000-plus Iowans who voted for him at the caucuses. He said the campaign was about getting back to Judeo-Christian values.
Rubio’s strong third place showing in Iowa may have been due in part to his being endorsed by the state’s largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register. But it was certainly one of the more stunning LGBT moments when the endorsement from the Register chided Rubio for wanting to fight “the battles of the past” against same-sex marriage. Following the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling that required equal treatment for same-sex couples, the Register all but called for a movement to recall the court’s justices.
Other LGBT moments in the later days of the Iowa campaign included Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, who supported Republican Ted Cruz, railing against marriage between same-sex partners as “wicked” and “evil,” and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump reiterating his already stated disagreement with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down state bans on such marriages.
Cruz didn’t explicitly mention the Supreme Court ruling against state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, but he told CNN Sunday that, as president, he would on “Day One” reverse all of President Obama’s “illegal” executive orders. Rubio repeatedly promised the same. Although the executive orders have not been deemed “illegal,” President Obama has signed executive orders to prevent discrimination against LGBT people in employment by federal contractors and in hospital visitation policies.
All three Democratic candidates have repeatedly voiced their support for equal rights and dignity for LGBT people.
During her speech to supporters late Monday night, Clinton said she knows her administration can “protect our rights — women’s rights, gay rights, voting rights, immigrants’ rights, workers rights.”
Sanders’ speech Monday night focused on income inequality, tuition-free college and climate change.
Donna Red Wing, a longtime LGBT activist nationally and now executive director of the statewide LGBT group One Iowa, said both Clinton and Sanders had strong support in the LGBT community there.
“I certainly cannot gauge where the LGBT community is around the top Democratic candidates,” said Red Wing last November. “Sanders has an amazing ground game and people in the community love him for his long-time and unwavering support of LGBT equality. Clinton, on the other hand, also has a great many supporters in the community and an exceptional campaign, one that is gaining traction.”
By Jan. 19, Clinton picked up a key endorsement.
The Human Rights Campaign board endorsed Clinton, saying she had “unveiled the most robust and ambitious LGBT plan any candidate for president has ever laid out” and has a “long record as a champion for LGBT rights both in the U.S. and, notably, around the globe.”
Later that week, HRC President Chad Griffin joined Clinton at a campaign event in West Des Moines and introduced her to a rally and, according to the Des Moines Register, said, “All of the progress we’ve made and all that we’re still fighting for — all of it — is on the ballot this year.”
The Register said Clinton told the crowd of about 900 supporters, “We have to end the travesty that under our Constitution, you can get married on Saturday and because of it, fired on Monday.”
Meanwhile, Log Cabin Republicans stepped up its campaign against Clinton, posting a video of her comments in 2002 and 2004, saying she did not support marriage for gay couples.
“Democrats and members of the LGBT community have given Hillary Clinton a pass on past transgressions and even allowed her to rewrite the history of the gay rights movement; Log Cabin Republicans will not,” said Log Cabin national president Gregory Angelo. “It’s time for the people of Iowa — and the country — to know that when it mattered, Hillary Clinton was wrong on gay rights.”
Both the Republican and Democratic fields shrank even before the caucuses were over Monday night. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley announced he was suspending his campaign for the Democratic nomination. O’Malley, like Clinton and Sanders, had a strong record in support of LGBT equal rights.
Now the smaller fields move to New Hampshire, where the first 2016 presidential primary takes place next Tuesday, Feb. 9. Clinton has an “LGBT Granite Staters for Hillary” organization in place there, that includes the state’s first openly gay state senator, David Pierce.