As delegates cast their votes for Hillary Clinton’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday, some are recalling memories of another Clinton.
More than 20 years ago, Bill Clinton stood before delegates, accepting their nomination for the 1992 presidential election. Much younger and less world-weary, this Bill Clinton talked about town halls he attended, his humble roots and childhood and his love for his wife.
The United States has come a long way since the days of the Comeback Kid, said Pembroke, Massachusetts, delegate Stephen Driscoll.
“For gays and lesbians — because we didn’t have the ‘B’ and the ’T’ then — the big question was whether or not the president Bill Clinton would say the word ‘gay,’” Driscoll recalled of his first convention. “He did, but in 1992, he didn’t.”
“In 1996, our own negotiation was to get the president to say the word ‘gay,’” Driscoll said, adding that their success was “a monumental step.”
In part, this progress is due to significant shifts in the voter base.
Most astonishingly has been changes in public opinion on gay and lesbian relations. In 1992, 48 percent of Americans said such relations should be illegal and 44 percent disagreed. Now, it’s 68 percent for, 28 percent opposing, according to Gallup Poll data compiled by NBC News.
Driscoll, who co-chairs the National Stonewall Democrats, said delegates advocating for gay and lesbian rights in 1996 had to “smuggle” signs and “rainbow stuff” onto the floor. They carried signs that said “Equal Rights for Newt’s Sister,” referencing Newt Gingrich’s sister who had come out as lesbian.
On Tuesday, Driscoll was dressed in a rainbow-checkered shirt and pink shorts. He wore a rainbow necklace and LGBT-rights pins dotted his shirt and lanyard as he handed out Equality Now stickers to fellow delegates.
To say a lot has changed would be an understatement. Driscoll, who has attended every Democratic National Convention since 1996, called this progress “remarkable.”
“The incorporation of LGBT people into the collaborate of the party is remarkable … the idea of this 20 years ago would’ve been preposterous,” Driscoll said. “They wouldn’t even let us bring flags onto the floor.”
“It’s so radically different now, so it tells you that social change can happen and it can happen very, very quickly.”