Hillary Clinton’s Senate replacement backs federal protections for LGBT people

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The Governor of New York has announced that he has chosen Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the Senate vacancy left by Hillary Clinton, who was confirmed as US Secretary of State earlier this week.

Ms Gillibrand, 42, is a Democrat and the member of the US House of Representatives for New York’s 20th Congressional district. She was first elected in 2006.

A lawyer, during the Clinton administration she served as Special Counsel to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo.

Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F Kennedy, was in the running for the appointment but it was reported she withdrew ealier this week.

In most states when a vacany arises in the Senate, the Governor of the state appoints someone to fill the seat until the next election. There will be a special election in 2010, two years before Mrs Clinton’s term expires in 2012.

Ms Gillibrand spoke to gay marriage advocacy group Empire State Pride Agenda’s Executive Director Alan Van Capelle before her selection was announced.

“After talking to Kirsten Gillibrand, I am very happy to say that New York is poised to have its first US Senator who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples,” said Mr Van Capelle.

“She also supports the full repeal of the federal DOMA (Defence 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.”

Empire State Pride Agend said Ms Gillibrand joins Governor Paterson, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and numerous other elected officials in the New York State Legislature and across the state who support the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

Mrs Clinton has represented New York in the Senate since she left the White House in 2001.

She is the first former First Lady to hold a cabinet position and was the President’s opponent for the Democratic party nomination.

During the campaign she said that if elected she would be “strongly outspoken” on the executions of gay people in countries such as Iran.

In an interview with Philadelphia Gay News ahead of the Pennsylvania primary in April, Mrs Clinton answered questions on gay rights internationally.

“What changes would you make toward governments that execute gay people, such as Iran, Egypt and Iraq and numerous other countries in the Middle East and Africa? Will you offer political asylum?” she was asked.

“I would be very strongly outspoken about this and it would be part of American foreign policy,” she replied.

“There are a number of gross human rights abuses that countries engage in with whom we have relations and we have to be really vigilant and outspoken in our total repudiation of those kinds of actions and do everything we can, including using our leverage on matters such as aid, to change the behaviour so we can try to prevent such atrocities from happening.”