With a nod to past positions, Clinton pledges sweeping action for LGBT Americans

Story highlights

  • "You have helped change a lot of minds, including mine," Clinton said
  • Clinton pledged to upgrade the service records of former LGBT servicemembers who were dishonorably discharged under "don't ask, don't tell"

Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton hasn't always been in favor of same-sex marriage, but she pledged Saturday to push a sweeping platform on LGBT rights as president in a speech to the Human Rights Campaign in Washington.

Clinton vowed to upgrade the service records of former LGBT servicemembers who were dishonorably discharged under "don't ask, don't tell," increase the legal protection of transgender Americans and endorsed the Federal Equality Act, a law that would update the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect LGBT Americans.
"You have helped change a lot of minds, including mine," Clinton said, a reference to the fact that she didn't support same-sex marriage as recently as 2013. "And I am personally grateful for that."
But Clinton also cast herself as a champion for equality, someone who has fought for equal rights since her time as first lady.
"I have been fighting alongside you and others for equal rights and I am just getting warmed up," Clinton told a supportive audience.
LGBT activists have had a momentous 2015. The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that same-sex marriage was the law of land in every state, something that seemed unlikely during Clinton's first presidential campaign, when both she and Barack Obama did not support gay and lesbian nuptials.
But Clinton said Saturday that "we are not there yet." She then hit Republicans for their anti-same-sex marriage positions.
"Ben Carson says marriage equality is what caused the fall of the Roman Empire," Clinton said, rolling her eyes. "Ted Cruz slammed a political opponent for marching in a pride parade."
On Cruz, she added, "He clearly has no idea what he is missing. ... You should join us sometime, senator. Come on!"
Clinton also addressed Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who made news over the summer for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Clinton said Davis was "breaking the law by denying other Americans their constitutional rights" and slammed presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- though not by name -- for "standing in the courthouse door in Kentucky calling for people to join him in resisting a Supreme Court ruling."
Clinton's views on same-sex marriage have been continually evolving.
Her husband, President Bill Clinton, signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which defined for federal purposes marriage between one man and one woman. As a senator and later a presidential candidate, Clinton backed civil unions and partner benefits for same-sex couples, and came out in favor of same-sex marriage in 2013, shortly before the court struck down a key provision of the 1996 law.
And during an interview with NPR in 2014, Clinton backed the state-by-state legal process that led to same-sex marriage being legal in many states, but not all.
Shortly after launching her campaign in April, however, Clinton called same-sex marriage a right afforded by the Constitution.
Clinton told the audience on Saturday that it knows the "obstacles" faced by LGBT Americans more than she does.
"But I want you to know that I get it," she said. "I see the injustices and the dangers that you and your families still face. And I am running for president to end them once and for all."
Clinton was introduced by someone she knows well: Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign and a former Clinton White House aide.
"I've known Hillary Clinton for a long time. A really, really long time," he joked as a decades-old photo of himself with Clinton flashed on the screen. Griffin introduced Clinton was "a true trailblazer and a real champion for equality."
Clinton is not the only high-profile Democrat speaking to the Human Rights Campaign on Saturday.
Vice President Joe Biden is delivering the keynote speech on Saturday night, a speaking slot Clinton turned down in order to appear on "Saturday Night Live" in New York, according to a source familiar with Clinton's schedule.