Did Hillary Clinton begin supporting gay marriage for political reasons?

WikimediaHilary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton defended herself in an NPR interview on Thursday, when asked to explain her changed stance towards gay marriage.

"Fresh Air" host and executive producer Terry Gross questioned Clinton's reasons for publicly supporting gay marriage in 2013, when she opposed it through 2008. Clinton said her feelings toward the issue has "evolved."

"I'm an American," she said. "I think that we have all evolved and it's been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I'm aware of." She added that we are "living at a time when this extraordinary change is occurring and I'm proud of our country." Clinton also noted that things were quite different when her husband, former president Bill Clinton, was in office.

Mr.Clinton, who was in the White House from 1993 to 2001, signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. The federal law defines marriage in biblical terms—between a man and a woman—and allows states to withhold legal benefits to same-sex couples married in other states. Clinton also instituted the now-repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that prohibited openly gay individuals from serving in the military.

Mrs. Clinton initially supported DOMA and opposed gay marriage. She voiced these beliefs during her campaign for New York Senate.

"Marriage has historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman," she said in a December 1999 campaign speech.

Clinton still opposed gay marriage in 2008 when she ran for president against Barack Obama, although she did support civil unions.

In March 2013, she publicly reversed her stance, saying in a video that gays are "full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage."

When challenged with this timeline by Gross, Clinton said that she has not flip-flopped.

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

"I have a strong record," she continued. "I have a great commitment to this issue and I am proud of what I've done and the progress we're making."

Section 3 of DOMA was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in June 2013, allowing legally married, same-sex partners to receive federal benefits.