Hillary Rodham Clinton has not said whether she will run for president in 2016, but the prospect of the first female president has spawned an independent super PAC in her name. Ready for Hillary, which opened its doors in January, has hired constituency directors to mobilize every slice of the liberal spectrum, including the LGBT community.
“This is a personal thing,” said Lisa Changadveja, who was named LGBT Americans director and is gay herself. “If Hillary does decide to run, she’ll have LGBT leaders ready to stand by her as supporters, donors, and hard-working volunteers.”
Changadveja pointed to three instances in which the presumptive candidate has proven her gay-rights bona fides. In 2000, Clinton became the first first lady to march in a gay-pride parade. (She has marched in several gay-pride parades since then.)
As secretary of State, Clinton delivered a speech at the United Nations in which she equated gay rights with human rights. “Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human,” she declared. “And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
Finally, Clinton for the first time endorsed gay marriage earlier this year. “I support it personally and as a matter of policy and law, embedded in a broader effort to advance equality and opportunity for LGBT Americans and all Americans,” she said at the time.
According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 92 percent of LGBT American adults say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade. One reason: gay-rights advocacy by public figures. That same poll, which was released in June, asked respondents to identify public figures who had advanced the cause of gay Americans. Twenty-three percent named President Obama, 18 percent named comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, and 3 percent named Clinton. (Apart from Obama and DeGeneres, no one else was named by more than 3 percent of respondents.)
Nonetheless, Changadveja insists that the LGBT community is enthusiastic about the prospect of a Clinton presidency. At a recent LGBT rally in Orlando, 900 people signed up for emails from Ready for Hillary in a single day. “Hillary has been a longtime friend of the LGBT community,” says Changadveja, who took a leave of absence while in college to help with Clinton’s first presidential run. “They have a lot of love for her.”
Changadveja, who is of Thai heritage, grew up in Helen, Ga., 90 miles north of Atlanta. The science-fiction buff, who can recite snatches of dialogue from Star Trek and Battlestar Gallactica, volunteered for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and worked on the successful 2006 reelection bid of Oregon’s then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat. In 2007, Changadveja temporarily withdrew from Brenau University in Gainesville, Ga., to join Clinton’s presidential campaign. She was still a teenager at the time.
Changadveja has been openly gay for 10 years. She credits recent advances in gay rights — like the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act — to evolving social norms and the diligence of gay-rights activists. “It’s amazing to see how far the LGBT needle has moved in the last decade.”