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Wednesday 3 September 2014

Clinton defends gay marriage call

Published 13/06/2014 | 00:57

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Hillary Clinton has denied that political reasons were behind her move towards supporting same-sex marriage

Hillary Clinton has defended her initial opposition to gay marriage, denying in a radio interview that political reasons were behind her shift last year to supporting same-sex unions.

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The former US secretary of state accused the host of the show of "playing with my words".

Ms Clinton told National Public Radio (NPR) host Terry Gross, one of the most respected interviewers in the US: "I did not grow up even imagining gay marriage and I don't think you did either.

"This was an incredibly new and important idea that people on the front lines of the gay rights movement began to talk about and slowly, but surely, convinced others about the rightness of that position.

"When I was ready to say what I said, I said it."

The exchange came during Ms Clinton's media tour supporting her new book, Hard Choices, about the former first lady and senator's time as US president Barack Obama's secretary of state.

She has said she will decide later this year whether to make a second run for president.

In 2008, Ms Clinton, Barack Obama and other Democratic presidential candidates opposed legalising same-sex marriage, although they endorsed versions of civil unions.

In March 2013, Ms Clinton released a video expressing her support for gay marriage, shortly after she left the State Department.

As the nation's top diplomat, Ms Clinton refrained from weighing in on domestic politics but she won praise from gay rights organisations for bringing attention to LGBT issues around the globe and within the State Department.

But the former first lady's announcement came after Obama, vice president Joe Biden and several prominent Democrats - along with Republicans like Senator Rob Portman - had stated their support for same-sex marriage.

The NPR interview became tense when the host asked Ms Clinton repeatedly about her shift to support gay marriage.

At one point, Ms Clinton told Ms Gross: "I think you're being very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue."

Ms Gross said she was trying to clarify Ms Clinton's views on the issue.

"No, I don't think you are trying to clarify," the former first lady responded.

"I think you are trying to say that I used to be opposed and now I am in favour and I did it for political reasons. And that's just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it."

Ms Gross noted that Ms Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton, signed the Defence of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman and denied gay couples a range of federal marriage benefits.

The former New York senator said the nation is "living at a time when this extraordinary change is occurring and I'm proud of our country".

She said that in 1993, at the start of her husband's presidency, "that was not the case".

Ms Clinton was appearing at several events in New York to promote her book.

At the Council on Foreign Relations, she said Iraq had turned into a "dreadful, deteriorating situation" and that she "could not have predicted" the effectiveness of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to seize territory and try to "erase boundaries to create an Islamic state".

Weighing her future, Ms Clinton said in an interview set to air on CBS Sunday Morning that she learned in 2008 that the "American political system is probably the most difficult, even brutal, in the world".

But she told NPR she would not be deterred "by the blood sport of politics".

Press Association

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