Rep. Earl Blumenauer Regrets Voting for DOMA. So Why Didn’t He Say He’s Sorry?


U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oreg.) isn’t proud of his vote, 13 years ago, to help make the Defense of Marriage Act into law. He fashions himself a civil rights champion, which is why his thumbs up for discrimination back then makes no sense. Even to him. So he’s made an attempt to explain himself in a lengthy harangue dissecting his actions.

But he doesn’t mention “sorry” or “I apologize” once. That’s curious.

Today, Blumenauer knows his vote was wrong. And he’s out to set the record straight.

On July 12, 1996, I cast the worst vote of my political career. Having served in public office since 1973, that says something. While I’ve made other mistakes, this was different: it was a deliberate vote that I knew to be poor public policy and was against my values.

He had his reasons.

Having given it much thought, I was convinced that by voting for this one federal statute against the recognition of same-sex marriage, it would somehow take the steam out of the Newt Gingrich-Tom Delay Congress, which was using the homophobic right-wing agenda to mobilize their base at the expense of millions of gay, lesbian, transgendered, and bisexual Americans. My hope was to simply move on and get to more pressing business at hand, including smaller steps for equality based on sexual orientation, like legislation against employment discrimination.

He thought everyone would understand his vote.

Since I was an outspoken supporter of anti-discrimination, I assumed that my calculations would be understood by my friends in the community and that we would lay this obnoxious political vendetta to rest. Wrong on all counts.

He knows that was bullshit.

It should have been obvious to me that we would not be able to quell this assault based on sexual orientation. Far from stopping it, this vote fed the bigotry. Once Congress had put its imprimatur on DOMA, it was a logical step for the homophobes and political cynics to intensify their efforts and make permanent a ban on gay marriage in both the U.S. and state constitutions — spawning many state initiatives and intensifying the assault.

As for the expectation that my friends, allies, and supporters within the community would understand my vote, that too was fundamentally flawed. Friends gay and straight were perplexed, confused, and hurt. Logical political calculation — after all, I’m the “political expert” — made no sense. First of all, I was fundamentally wrong about how the politics would play out, but it was also flawed on a more basic level. Here I was making political calculations on the basis of other people’s civil rights and identity as human beings.

The ultimate arrogance in this — even had my calculations turned out right (which they weren’t) — was just wrong.

But hey, look how much progress America has made since his vote! Not thanks to him, that’s for sure.

The good news is that out of this painful episode for me and our country, much progress has occurred. The right-wing’s march to define “traditional marriage” has stalled and created its own backlash. The broader community was subjected to their vitriol and mean-spiritedness, and tides started to move the other way.

It’s been a non-issue for those under 35, but now more and more Americans support marriage for all. The issue that was not on the radar screen for the GLBT community is now at the top of the list. Rather than having states prohibit same-sex marriage, now — starting with Massachusetts — we have states like Iowa moving the other way. Many other states are moving aggressively with domestic partnerships, and it is merely a matter of time before all citizens are accorded the right to marry their partner and be accorded the legal protections and ceremony currently granted only to heterosexual couples.

And other people are taking the reigns!

The politics are also working in the other direction, the most interesting example being the defeat of Marilyn Musgrave, the champion of a federal constitutional amendment that would have prohibited same-sex marriage.

But now he’s ready to do something about his mistake!

Now there is the opportunity to deal with DOMA itself. This week, Congressman Nadler has introduced legislation to repeal it, and I am proud to be a co-sponsor.

And he promises to work really, really hard on it.

I long ago recognized and acknowledged the mistake I made, and I have spent time understanding the problems in my thinking and analysis. It has resulted in frank and important conversations with many gay and lesbian friends, and if anything it has strengthened my commitment to the cause of banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and has made me a better lawmaker.

I will work to make sure that my colleagues who once, for whatever reason, joined me in supporting this ill-advised measure take this opportunity to correct their record and eliminate an injustice.

Oh, that’s the



Because nowhere in there did we see this: “I’m sorry, and I offer my deepest apologies to gay Americans whose lives I’ve helped to ruin.”

Glad to have you on our side, Earl, and your conciliatory monologue is in the right place. And we’ll probably get shit for attacking a DOMA flip-flopper who is now one of our allies. But really, man. Say you’re sorry. Because you should be.

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  • Timothy

    “I was fundamentally wrong, arrogant, and knew better. It was the worst decision of my career. I’ll work hard to reverse it.” is to me FAR preferable to the usual “I’m sorry, now give me money and vote for me.”

  • Chance

    He is a “non-denominational” Protestant. Whatever that means.

  • Chance

    @Chance: Oh, wait. Senator Jon Cornyn (R) Texas is a “non-denominational” Protestant. That’s a bad sign. Don’t trust this weasel.

  • edgyguy1426

    I don’t need an apology, I just want him to make it right.

  • Glynn

    You said “Because nowhere in there did we see this: “I’m sorry, and I offer my deepest apologies to gay Americans whose lives I’ve helped to ruin.”

    I think this guy probably woke up 12 years & 364 days after he cast his moronic vote.

    To say he helped ruin peoples lives is a bit…..um…..wank.
    Can you point to anyone who has been ruined (other than Earl Blumenauer)?


    We need to hear more politicians utter phrases like “First of all, I was fundamentally wrong” and “I long ago recognized and acknowledged the mistake I made” and “I am proud to be a co-sponsor”.

    He may not have actually uttered the word “sorry”, but hey, it sounds like he is very sorry. He is at the very least on track and voting for us and we should be making it easier for politicians to join him. Save the vitriol for the bigotted fuckers who are never going to change their minds.

    Get over wanting to hear “sorry” specifically, in this instance.

  • naprem

    Reins, not reigns. Really, it’s pitiful.

  • Will

    Jesus. His whole post was an implicit apology. This site is so ridiculously prissy and whiny it’s insane. Being this bitter is exhausting, no?

  • dvlaries

    “I wish I had balls when it might have counted.”

    Don’t abet folks like this, queerty, by even giving them a platform.

    The same space would have been put to better use by an afternoon ‘gratuitous skin’ set.

  • Landon Bryce

    Oregonian perspective: Blumenauer is an asshole and always has been. What he leaves out here is the anti-gay fervor in his home state peaking in the mid-1990s, which he caved into in a truly disgusting way. On top of it, the guy is a sanctimonious prick, forever lecturing others while never acknowledging his own faults. He is the worst, most spineless, selfish type of Oregon Democrat, and there are tons just like him.

    This is the best and most human I’ve seen him be. This is an apology. He can’t sound more apologetic than this. It’s just not in him. If you didn’t already hate him, I can see choosing to based on this. As someone who already did, I’m surprised and impressed.

  • robert

    I’d rather have him on my side than against. At least he’s realized the mistake, apology or not. I can live with that. Just get us our rights, I don’t care who it is, just do it, whatever it takes.

  • Wilbert

    @Glynn agreed… Queerty is a being a bit of a priss, the man is clearly regretful of his actions, you do not need to hear, “I’m sorry”

  • tinkerbell

    The old “I voted for it for your best interests,” bulls&!% argument. One question, if he really is remorseful and regretful, has he signed on as a co-sponsor of Jerry Nadler’s bill to repeal DOMA yet?

    I’m tired of people smacking us down and then telling us they did it because they are “fierce advocates” for us. Read: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, etc. These clowns are no more friends of our community than the religious Nazis of W. Bush and company.

  • Cam

    He reminds me of how Senator McCain, after the 2000 presidential election, McCain said his biggest regret was not speaking out about South Carolina’s use of the Confederate flag during the election in 2000. He at that time said it was a state issue.

    Well when he ran AGAIN in 2008 somebody brought up the SC flag issue and asked how he felt about it, he got angry and sais “That issue was selttled by the state” So ONCE AGAIN, when he was running for office he refused to answer the question, the same question he formerly said not answering was one of the biggest regrets of his political life. All these politicians are full of shit.

  • B

    Wilbert: “@Glynn agreed… Queerty is a being a bit of a priss, the man is clearly regretful of his actions, you do not need to hear, ‘I’m sorry'”

    My guess is that, if he used the word “sorry”, someone would complain that he didn’t say, “truly, truly, very sorry.”

    DOMA is a bad law, but at the time it was passed, the Republicans wanted a constitutional amendment. Repealing DOMA is a piece of cake compared to removing a bad constitutional amendment. Whether supporting DOMA was reasonable at the time depends on the chances that an anti-gay constitutional amendment would have passed if one could not point to DOMA as a reason for an amendment not being necessary.

  • Grey

    It sure sounds like an apology to me.

  • Timothy

    “He is a “non-denominational” Protestant. Whatever that means.”

    It means that he goes to a Christians church that is not part of a denomination. (A denomination is an organized group of churches that share the same name, beliefs, and sacraments; like ‘United Methodist Church’ or ‘Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’.)

    Because a church does not belong to a denomination, it’s incorrect to assume much about it. It could be the most liberal church in that town or the most conservative. It could be very structured or very casual. It could be large or tiny.

    That being said, however, generally non-denominational churches lean towards conservative theology on social issues, very casual or ‘hip’ worship styles, less individual involvement, and low emphasis on orthodoxy or traditional liturgy. Quite often, they succeed primarily based on the personality and charm or the minister. Many of the mega-churches are non-denominational.

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