Elections

Leaked Emails Show Clinton Campaign Struggling Over Gay Marriage Position

Leaked emails from the account of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta show the Clinton campaign struggling over what position to take on the subject of gay marriage.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton looks on during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on September 26, 2016. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)   Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton looks on during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on September 26, 2016. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)   

On April 12, 2015, shortly before the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges — in which the Court ultimately held that states couldn’t define marriage as between a man and a woman — Buzzfeed writer Chris Geidner sent an email to Clinton campaign spokesman Jesse Ferguson, asking for Hillary Clinton’s position on gay marriage.

“Previously Sec. Clinton has been ambiguous, to my knowledge, on whether she believes same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage,” Geidner wrote. “Does Sec. Clinton believe states can ban same-sex couples from marrying, or does she believe such bans are unconstitutional?”

Ferguson forwarded the email to several campaign staffers asking for guidance, igniting a discussion on what Hillary’s position should be.

Clinton spokeswoman Adrienne Elrod fired off an email reminding staffers to be “incredibly careful,” later suggesting the campaign “punt” the question.

“Nick/Jake, how do you think we should handle? I think we all know that we have to be incredibly careful here, but seems like it’s a tougher one to put off…” Elrod wrote.

Communications adviser Mandy Grunwald came out against taking a position on gay marriage, writing: “Doesn’t it seem like the wrong moment to be making policy news?”

“If all agree I think we try to give this reporter dan’s ‘punt’ language he’s devising and leave it at that,” Elrod replied. “Apparently this guy is the main LGBT reporter for buzzfeed so probably whatever she says on this he will pick apart and agree with Mandy and others that it will become news that distracts from our desired message this week.”

“I’m fine deferring but I do think that on no-brainers like this we shouldn’t let the questions build,” Clinton aide Jake Sullivan shot back. “Rather than give punt language that sounds like a dodge just say you’ll get back to him when you can. We did just start.”

Two weeks later, Hillary sent out a tweet implying her support for gay marriage.

“Every loving couple & family deserves to be recognized & treated equally under the law across our nation. #LoveMustWin #LoveCantWait,” she wrote.

Two months later, PolitiFact gave Clinton a “Full Flop” rating for her position on gay marriage, noting, “as public opinion shifted toward support for same-sex marriage, so did Clinton.”

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