Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton on Saturday night highlighted South Carolinians who have struggled and won while fighting for equal rights for the LGBT community.
Among them was Chase Culpepper, a transgender teen from Anderson who, when she went to get her driver’s license, “was ordered to wash her face and take off her makeup (and) told to look male in her photo,” Clinton said, speaking at a dinner for S.C. Equality, an advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community.
Clinton continued: “And she walked out of there thinking, I don’t want any other kid to go through that experience, so she spoke up and she pushed for the rules to be changed.”
Clinton also praised S.C. Equality for laying the groundwork for LGBT activism in the state. “Because of what you all have done, (Culpepper) had the courage to say, wait a minute, that’s not right.”
Clinton was warmly welcomed at the event – both the founder and current executive director said they support the former secretary of state’s presidential bid.
Former U.S. Rep. Liz Patterson of Spartanburg and state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, also spoke at the event.
Clinton said, if elected, she would work to pass the federal Equality Act to expand civil rights laws to protect against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Clinton said she also wanted to “thank and honor” the “more than 14,000 men and women who were forced out of the military for being gay.”
She added that transgender military service men and women are not allowed to serve openly, but she wants to change that “outdated rule.”
Speaking to reporters earlier Saturday in Columbia, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said that he opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s, a bill that Clinton supported as first lady. The federal law gave states the right to decide whether to allow same-sex marriages.
“That legislation was an anti-gay piece of legislation, homophobic, pure and simple,” Sanders said.
Clinton also opposed same-sex marriage – while supporting same-sex unions – until 2013.
But that record on LGBT issues did not concern Linda Bosch of Gilbert, who said Clinton’s “thinking has evolved” on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Clinton also “has evolved into a champion of the LGBT community, and she’s always been a champion of women’s rights,” Bosch added.
Kathy Anderson of Columbia said the fight for LGBT equality happens in steps.
Of Clinton, she said: “I respect someone who is willing to admit a change of mind.”