On Tuesday, January 19, 2016, the Human Rights Campaign, the most prominent LGBTQ civil rights organization in the U.S., announced which Democratic candidate it was endorsing in the 2016 campaign.
The organization declared on Facebook, just after 6:00 in the morning (CST): “Senator to Secretary of State to Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton is a proven champion for LGBT equality. HRC is proud to announce its support for Hillary Clinton for President.”
At about 6 p.m., the post had about 5,600 likes and 2,440 shares. The comments section, on the other hand, was subject to a relentless assault by invading Bernie Sanders supporters.
There were 6,600 comments at 6 p.m., the vast majority displeased with the announcement.
A sample of 402 comments posted between 1:18 and 1:44 p.m. revealed near-unanimous opposition to the endorsement, with most writers supporting Sanders. 16 comments either supported the Clinton endorsement or objected to Bernie Sanders (4% of the sample). 7 comments (under 2%) were too vague or strange to determine an opinion. 379 comments, or 94%, condemned the endorsement and/or declared support for Sanders. The top comment, expressing disappointment and praising Sanders, had 5,870 likes.
Many visitors declared their donations to the organization would immediately cease. A typical comment read: “And this is what will make me stop my monthly contribution to HRC. Nice to see your organization is purely corporate and has no interest in the candidate’s integrity or history when it comes to LGBT issues.”
Criticisms included Clinton’s support for anti-gay rights legislation such as the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the 1990s, her opposition to gay marriage until 2013, her relationship with Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who worked as a junior aide in Bill Clinton’s White House, and both her and the Human Rights Campaign’s support from large corporations (corporations Sanders is constantly attacking).
These were compared with Sanders’ call for the end of laws against homosexual behavior in Vermont while running for governor in 1972, his support for Burlington’s first gay pride march and gay pride day, his attack on anti-gay housing discrimination, his vote against DOMA and DADT, and his backing of the first legal civil unions in the nation in Vermont in 2000. Sanders approved publicly of gay marriage in 2009.
A spokesman for the Sanders campaign said, “It’s understandable and consistent with the establishment organizations voting for the establishment candidate, but it’s an endorsement that cannot possibly be based on the facts and the record.”
A petition pushing for the Human Rights Campaign to retract its endorsement and give it to Sanders quickly appeared on Change.org.