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Bill Clinton, Who Signed DOMA into Law in 1996, Calls on Supreme Court to Overturn It

Former President Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law in 1996, calls on the Supreme Court to overturn it in a Washington Post editorial. He writes, in part:

ClintonIn 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.


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.

Arguments will be made before SCOTUS to do so on March 27.

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  1. Is late better than never? This op-ed is so self-serving and so insincere that it seems narcissistic. Ooh, he included a signing statement saying nobody should discriminate--what courageous leadership (not)! I might accept an apology if he had offered one. Or viewed him as sincere if he submits an amicus brief on DOMA by the deadline. But Bill's like the ex that swears—with tear-filled eyes and while biting his lower lip, every time you catch him tomcatting around—that it didn't mean anything and he only cares for you.

    Posted by: SC David | Mar 7, 2013 10:54:34 PM

  2. Well now WILBERFORCE, perhaps it's time for less political posturing and time for more principal. I won't even bother with your statement about electoral strategy since he had nothing to lose and as you know, anything that he did do meant absolutely nothing positive for either us, or the rest of the country. We still had eight miserable years of Cheney and signing DOMA or not signing it wouldn't have made one bit of difference.

    Posted by: Marc C | Mar 7, 2013 11:02:03 PM

  3. Bill Clinton is a pig who did pig diarrhea on our faces while wearing a smile on his face. He rubbed his green diarrhea into our faces and we're still paying for it today.

    Posted by: rise | Mar 7, 2013 11:49:38 PM

  4. I'm a lifelong democrat, but Bill Clinton is a despicable human being. Both he and Newt Gringrich were screwing women other than their wives when they concocted DOMA. Hypocrites.

    Posted by: Wes | Mar 8, 2013 12:11:02 AM

  5. Sorry. While concededly Clinton did his signing in relative obscurity, he could even more easily allowed the bills to become law without besmirching his own name by signing them.

    He COULD have, but didn't.

    Posted by: EdA | Mar 8, 2013 12:39:12 AM

  6. I wish that I could do some scat play with Bill Clinton. It's all that I've dreamt of since 1992.

    Posted by: Rise | Mar 8, 2013 12:44:54 AM

  7. @Mateom: It is easy to disregard the vulgar anti-Clinton posts of Rise. It is harder to disregard or understand the motivation of the person who is posting numerous, equally vulgar, comments in the name of Rise. That person may be intending to make Rise look foolish, what he is accomplishing is cheapening the quality of debate on this gay website. Thats a damn shame!

    Posted by: andrew | Mar 8, 2013 1:39:52 AM

  8. It's not just that he signed the bill. That's bad enough. He actually bragged about signing the bill in radio spots during the 1996 campaign. And I notice this hasn't come with an apology. While there has often been anti-gay laws at the state level, Congress only passed two laws openly hostile to gay people and Bill Clinton signed both of them. He should at least admit that what he did was wrong at the time and stop making excuses. He did what was politically expedient and it has caused much harm to many gay and lesbian people.

    Posted by: Houndentenor | Mar 8, 2013 1:57:08 AM

  9. So if he signed DOMA and DADT, what exactly did he do for us ?

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Mar 8, 2013 2:56:33 AM

  10. @ BOB :
    Wasn't it Gore who messed up.......when he should have used the star power of Clinton.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Mar 8, 2013 2:58:21 AM

  11. Would any politician actually do the right thing if it meant jeopardizing reelection?

    Reminds me of Hillary voting for the Iraq war.

    Just saw "primary colors" for the second time. For politicians, the ends truly justifies the means.

    Posted by: rick scatorum | Mar 8, 2013 3:47:32 AM

  12. Maybe the constitution should be amended:

    To one six year presidential term

    Posted by: rick scatorum | Mar 8, 2013 3:53:10 AM

  13. BTW, biden voted for doma

    Also sad how quickly both houses rushed to pass this legislation to diminish American citizens, and by such large margins

    Posted by: rick scatorum | Mar 8, 2013 4:06:13 AM

  14. He knew what he was doing was caving in to the Rethugs, and was a betrayal of gays. He did it anyway because he didn't want to waste political capital. The stuff about not knowing DOMA was discriminatory is BS. Still, I voted for him twice. He did do some good things for gays.

    Posted by: candideinnc | Mar 8, 2013 7:20:55 AM

  15. As much as I despise this being the truth, there is such a thing as politics and political currency. I remember everyone getting his panties in a knot over DOMA, but it's important to realize two things:

    • DOMA didn't change anything. The federal government did not at the time recognize or respect gay marriages except in the case of diplomatic courtesy (the same as we do for polygamous diplomats).

    • The legislation was clearly unconstitutional and it would have been a waste of Presidential currency to VETO it when it was going to be overturned by the USSC anyway.

    For you "17 years too late" folks: no, it's simply been 17 years. That would be 17 years of rather steady progress which while not attributable to Bill Clinton is also not attributable to the Human Rights Campaign, which as you know is little more than a front and cash cow for "progressives".

    Posted by: David Hearne | Mar 8, 2013 8:54:29 AM

  16. It'sad to see some of these comments. President Clinton had no choice! DOMA was supported by almost all the members of Congress. His veto would have been overriden the next day, and he would have looked weak. At the time, this law was VERY popular. To veto it would have been a mistake politically.

    That mistake could have led to a loss to Dole in the 1996 election. Given this alternative, the Clintons decided to support DOMA. But Clinton's second term was preferrable to a Dole presdiency.

    The Republicans played politics with this, and won.

    Posted by: Isaiah | Mar 8, 2013 11:14:32 AM

  17. We wouldn't be in this situation if it wasn't for Bill Clinton "compromising" us the GLBT Anericans. He could have easily signed a VETO but he didn't. He was too busy having sex with others not his wife while denying GLBT Americans in committed relationships a chance to cenent their love. Clinton had no courage to stand up for what was right. Now we are fixing the problem he helped create. Despicable!

    Posted by: FunMe | Mar 8, 2013 11:17:59 AM

  18. Don't tell us. You should have told the court.

    Posted by: Randy | Mar 8, 2013 3:54:37 PM

  19. @FunMe: while he could have vetoed the legislation, it had passed by a wide enough majority that congress would easily have overridden the veto (which takes a 2/3 vote of the senate and the house of representatives, each voting in favor of overriding a veto by at least that margin).

    Having the votes to override a veto is unusual, but DOMA had wide enough support for that to be easily done. About 7% of bills that were vetoed have been enacted by overriding the veto.

    There's another mechanism called a pocket veto, where the president simply doesn't sign the bill, but that only works as a veto if congress is not in session. If congress is in session for 10 days after the president receives the bill and the president does nothing, the bill becomes law.

    Posted by: Bill | Mar 8, 2013 4:09:15 PM

  20. Please you can't even tell me his sh*t don't stank. The "it was a different time" excuse doesn't and never will fly.

    The Salem witch trials and burnings were a different time. Doesn't make it remotely okay. B*tch, please. Go crawl under a rock and let Hillary get sh*t done. We all know she wears the pantsuit in the relationship anyway.


    Posted by: ble.d_out.colo.r | Mar 8, 2013 6:28:18 PM

  21. Poor Bill gets tarred with things not his doing.

    DADT was the liberalization of the former policy of witch hunts against gays; he wanted full inclusion and the Dems in congress abandoned him, but Clinton gets the blame.

    DOMA was a Republican creation and cause, and again Dems in Congress backed it so it had a veto-proof majority, but Clinton gets the blame

    Posted by: Derrick | Mar 8, 2013 7:42:23 PM

  22. Of course the Clinton drones are in full force now.

    Posted by: Morty | Mar 8, 2013 11:24:01 PM

  23. @RAGE: If we could send you back in time to the Salem Witch Trials, how far would you get if you told them, "Witches, ghosts, and evil spirits are a figment of your imagination, and even if there is a deity that created the world, unlikely as that may be, it would not care about the foibles of creatures about 2 meters tall in a universe whose currently visible extent is around 10 to the 26 meters across." They'd probably burn you at the stake too - for blasphemy.

    That's kind of the situation Clinton was in. Nothing he could have done would have improved the situation.

    It's worth noting that Clinton was always willing to compromise if that was the only way of moving in the direction he wanted to go. Then he'd try again and make some more progress. It's not pretty and not ideologically pure, and doesn't look particularly principled, but it is probably better than making no progress at all.

    Posted by: Bill | Mar 9, 2013 2:06:07 AM

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