Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly asserted her support for LGBTQ rights during a June 11 visit to Chicagothe first public event in a tour promoting her memoir Hard Choices. Clinton was interviewed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel who asked her about her December 2011 speech in Geneva during which she said "Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights"
"I was seeing an increasing backlash against LGBT communities," she told Emanuel. "Laws being passed that would criminalize behaviors, even leading potentially to the death penalty and I began to vigorously protest with governments in many parts of the world. Some just need to be brought along. They truly are not well informed."
Clinton went on to call out Russian president Vladimir Putin on the anti-gay laws enacted in his country in 2013. "What Putin's doing in Russia with all these laws against the LGBT community, that is just a cynical political ploy," she said. "I've had shouting matches with top Russian officials about this."
She explained that she tried to put her Geneva speech into a context that allowed governments, activists and businesses to join in the protest of those countries that dehumanize LGBT people via legislation or directoften violentaction. "We have a long way to go," Clinton said. "This is going to be an ongoing struggle and the United States must be on the front lines of LGBT rights."
Clinton and Emanuel appeared in front of a sold out audience at the Harris Theatre as part of a notable roster of 2014 speakers planned by Chicago Ideasa non-profit which gathers thought leaders from around the world "to provoke new ideas and inspire actionable results."
In introducing Clintonwho was born and raised in ChicagoEmanuel noted that "every time she returns to our city, our heart fills with pride." Clinton walked on stage to a standing ovation.
"It's wonderful being here and seeing so many of the places I grew up with," Clinton said from the podium, "To see first-hand how much opportunity and optimismchallenges to be surethat really mark this great city." She also saluted Emanuel's over two decade long friendship and relentless energy.
During a forty minute interview, Emanuel not only posed his own questions but those texted from the audience.
"Hillary, 'dead broke.' Really?" Emanuel asked referring to her June 9 interview with ABC news during which she spoke about the family's financial situation after leaving the White House in 2001.
"It may not have been the most artful way of saying that Bill and I have gone through a lot of different phases in our lives," Clinton replied. "That was then. This is now. We have gone through ups and downs like a lot of people but we are grateful for the opportunities we've had."
In terms of opportunities for women and girls, Clinton said both she and President Obama were in agreement that it had to be central to foreign policy.
"When women and girls are educated, have healthcare, participate in their economies, their societies, those countries are more stable, they're less likely to fall into conflict, they're less likely to breed extremism," she said. "Where women can participate in the economy, the Gross Domestic Product of these countries grows."
Emanuel described Clinton as a "feminist trailblazer" and asked what she would say to those who claim feminism is something that merely "happened in the past."
"I don't think you've lived long enough," Clinton answered. "A feminist is someone who believes women should have equal political, economic, social, cultural rights. I don't see anything controversial about that."
Clinton noted thatdespite some progressthere are still tremendous gaps in female equality world-wide. "We have places in the world that don't even register the birth of girls," she said. "We have a lot of places that still kill girls or allow them to die. Then we have denial of education. Ultimately what we want is every person to live up to their full, God-given potential."
In addressing immigration, Clinton said she strongly believes negative attitudes about immigrants are based on a "gross misunderstanding."
She went on to challenge David Brata Tea Party candidate who upset Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor during a Virginia primary on June 10.
"His argument was this: 'there are Americans out of work, so why should we allow immigrants into our country to take those jobs'" Clinton stated. "The answer is not to throw out of work and deport the 11 million immigrants who are contributing already to our economy. The answer is to grow our economy and create more jobs. Immigrants come in at the bottom and work their way up. We need to have a well-informed fact-based conversation."
Looking forward, Emanuel wondered if compromise on issues such as a balanced budget or children's health care was ever going to be possible in a country divided along party lines.
"Without compromise, we don't have a democracy," Clinton replied. "You have people who believe that it's their way or the highway. You have people who point fingers at anybody who deviates one small inch from what perfect is. That is not the way democracy works. That's a theocracy. Don't vote for anyone who proudly says they're against compromise because they are fundamentally saying they are against the American experiment in democracy."