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Socarides: Why Bill Clinton Signed DOMA

Richard Socarides, who was Clinton's aide on LGBT issues in 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act was signed, writes about Clinton's journey on gay rights issues, and why he signed the discriminatory law.

Writes Socarides, in part: Clinton

Inside the White House, there was a genuine belief that if the President vetoed the Defense of Marriage Act, his reëlection could be in jeopardy. There was a heated debate about whether this was a realistic assessment, but it became clear that the President’s chief political advisers were not willing to take any chances. Some in the White House pointed out that DOMA, once enacted, would have no immediate practical effect on anyone—there were no state-sanctioned same-sex marriages then for the federal government to ignore. I remember a Presidential adviser saying that he was not about to risk a second term on a veto, however noble, that wouldn’t change a single thing nor make a single person’s life better.

What we didn’t fully comprehend was that, sooner than anyone imagined, there would be thousands of families who would be harmed by DOMA—denied federal benefits, recognition, and security, or kept apart by immigration laws.

During the campaign season, Clinton would sometimes complain publicly about how the Republicans were using the marriage issue against him. He said, derisively, that it was “hardly a problem that is sweeping the country” and his press secretary called it “gay baiting, pure and simple.” And that September, when the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, President Clinton signed it.

There are no pictures of this occasion—no pens that were saved. My advice to the people who arranged for these things was to get it done and out of the way as quickly as possible; he signed it late at night one evening after returning from a day-long campaign trip...

Read the full piece HERE.

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

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  1. Our biggest enemies have always been our "friends" who rationalize that, by doing the wrong thing against us to stay in office, they can do so much good to make up for it. "But what does it profit a man that he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

    Posted by: John | Mar 8, 2013 5:36:21 PM

  2. 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 7:32:46 PM

  3. Forget Bill Clinton a bit. I really can't stand Richard Socarides. This guy is so understanding and supportive of the need for laws such as DOMA and DADT at the time. Yet he has spent the last 4 years lashing out at Obama for not cleaning up the mess he helped create almost 20 years ago? Richard Socarides is simply filthy and has zero credibility.

    Posted by: NY2.0 | Mar 8, 2013 10:21:17 PM

  4. Could someone, anyone, who is attacking Clinton for signing DOMA willing to lay out the scenario that would have had us in a better place at the time or even today if he had vetoed the law?

    I'm curious where you folks think it would have gone.

    1) Clinton vetoes DOMA

    2) ??? What next?

    Posted by: BobN | Mar 8, 2013 11:04:26 PM

  5. Bobn,
    Don't try discussing issues with the emotionally stunted crowd. Political reality doesn't exist for them, or compromise, or strategic retreat.
    They want what they want, and they want it now. Period. End of discussion.
    Better to let the ignorant masses yammer on, and to speak only with educated adults.

    Posted by: Wilberforce | Mar 8, 2013 11:39:20 PM

  6. Clinton could have done what his successor in the Arkansas State House just did over an abortion bill: declared that it was unconstitutional and he wouldn't sign it. Or does that little phrase "preserve, defend and protect the Constitution of the United States" have as little effect as the "so help me God" that recent Presidents have felt required to add to the oath of office?

    Posted by: Rich | Mar 8, 2013 11:41:05 PM

  7. BOBN: Clinton vetoes DOMA, shows some backbone and support for our community who helped elect him. If Republicans want to override the veto, they have to stand up and be counted as bigots for all of history. Clinton still elected to a second term against a very weak opponent. Many of these old timers who voted for it and are still around would have a much harder time getting reelected now. That's what's next.

    Posted by: David | Mar 8, 2013 11:45:57 PM

  8. WILBER: Retreat when it's not needed is called weakness and capitulation, or doesn't your "educated adult" self realize that?

    Posted by: David | Mar 9, 2013 12:01:27 AM

  9. I know that Bill Clinton, like all of us, is a flawed human being. I am proud that I voted for him twice in his election victories. I think that all things considered he was an excellent president. I will eagerly vote for my democratic Representative in 2014 and for the Democratic Party's candidate for President in 2016. Because all things considered the Democratic Party is our best option.

    Posted by: andrew | Mar 9, 2013 5:13:24 AM

  10. Let's be clear: This was much more than a "hold your nose and sign it" move by Clinton. He specifically tried to turn it into a political advantage by running radio ads on Christian radio. Those who try to defend Clinton must explain that as well:

    Posted by: Q | Mar 10, 2013 3:03:53 AM


    Posted by: MICHAEL A. RORER | Apr 1, 2013 8:48:38 AM

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