NY’s New Senator Announced

This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

January 23rd, 2009

Hillary Clinton is leaving her position as Senator from New York to serve as Secretary of State in the Obama administration and NY Governor Paterson has announced his choice to replace her. Kirsten Gillibrand, an upstate Representative, is a very unexpected choice.

Although we do not yet fully know Gillibrand or all of her positions, it’s clear that she is not a stereotypical Democrat. She’s described as a “fiscal hawk” and is a supporter of the Second Amendment. It appears that Gillibrand sits in the conservative wing of the Democratic Party.

But hers is an unusual stance. Generally, “conservative Democrat” is a label that often suggests social conservativatism, those who may be more hesitant to see gay constituents as fully deserving of equality.

Yet one of Gillibrand’s first actions after the announcement was to contact Empire State Pride and affirm her support for gay Americans.

“After talking to Kirsten Gillibrand, I am very happy to say that New York is poised to have its first U.S. Senator who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples,” said Van Capelle. “She also supports the full repeal of the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) law, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and passage of legislation outlawing discrimination against transgender people. While we had a productive discussion about a whole range of LGBT concerns, I was particularly happy to hear where she stands on these issues.”

It’s rare to find a politician who is fiscally conservative, favorable to gun rights, and fully supportive of equality for gay citizens. And I couldn’t be more pleased.


January 23rd, 2009

Me too. A fiscal conservative / social liberal is the perfect politician in my book. It’s why I supported Hillary.


January 23rd, 2009

Sounds like a Libertarian to me. I think she is a great choice.


January 23rd, 2009

“It’s rare to find a politician who is fiscally conservative, favorable to gun rights, and fully supportive of equality for gay citizens.”

Sounds just like me. Only no one votes for libertarians…


January 23rd, 2009

Actually, for a New York Democrat, her record on gay rights is pretty dismal. Her statement this morning is an abrupt flip flop of her prior positions.

Which is good — but until she’s proven herself, I don’t think you should give her credit for being anything but a two-faced politician who knows that she can’t win statewide by being anti-gay, like she could in her little right-wing district.

The real credit goes to the New York State GLBT community, for being powerful enough so that statewide politicians feel the need for their support.


January 23rd, 2009

Also worth noting is that she is not really some upstate hillbilly. She graduated with high honors from Dartmouth, attended UCLA law, started out at a very prestigious New York City law firm, and then became a partner at a different prestigious law firm. You cannot do those things while being cosmopolitan. At my own prestigious New York City, law firm, a lot of the partners consider themselves conservative because of taxes, but on social issues they are to a one supportive of gay equality. To the extent that Gillibrand is at all conservative, this is the model she follows.

So on the one hand, yes, she should back up her new positions with actions, and I will be fair about judging whether she does so once she has a chance. But on the other hand, there is no reason to be skeptical; she is obviously very smart and very cosmopolitan, and pretty much every person who fits that description is with us in this fight. In demographic terms, it was her former (bigoted) position that was the outlier.


January 23rd, 2009

Sorry — “you cannot do those things WITHOUT being cosmopolitan.”

Timothy Kincaid

January 23rd, 2009


The reporting about her record is flawed. The claim is that she voted agianst or opposed specific items of pro-gay legislation but that doesn’t appear to be true.

This legislation never even made it to a vote.

She lost points on HRC’s survey because they asked legislators to co-sponsors legislation on a number of issues. She did not co-sponsor these four items.

I do not know why she didn’t sign up as a co-sponsor but it is completely unfair to equate this with “opposition to” or “voting against” legislation.

Emily K

January 23rd, 2009

She embodies principals that classic Republicanism is supposed to embody. But today we’re a long way away from the party of Lincoln.


January 23rd, 2009

Point well taken, Timothy. Thanks for clearing that up.

She did, however, turn down the chance to co-sponsor all four of those bills. All four of the bills had over a hundred Democratic co-sponsors, so they weren’t small or obscure bills; and according to HRC’s Scorecard, Gillibrand has the worst record of supporting GLBT issues of any New York Democrat. So it’s fair to say that Gillibrand has been the least supportive Representative of any Dem from New York. We could have done a lot better, imo.

Nonetheless, she hasn’t actually voted against these things, so it’s not as bad as it at first appeared. I’ve updated my post to clarify this.

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