Former President Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law more than 15 years ago, has endorsed its repeal in a Washington Post op-ed.
In his commentary, Clinton offered a measured apology for signing the odious measure into law and declared it to be “incompatible with our Constitution.”
A politician to the end, Clinton first tried to explain the times he was operating in:
In 1996, I signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Although that was only 17 years ago, it was a very different time. In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian.
As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that its passage “would defuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.”
It was under these circumstances that DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress.
Eventually, though Bill does get to the heart of the matter, and takes some responsibility for the act that has denied same-sex couples their equality.
When I signed the bill, I included a statement with the admonition that “enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.”
Reading those words today, I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory. It should be overturned.
What is the value of President Clinton’s endorsement—is it a piece of persuasive rhetoric or an attempt at repairing his track record with the LGBT community? Why did he pen an opinion piece rather than fie an amicus brief like so many others? And why wait until two weeks before the Court will hear arguments for and against DOMA?
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