Friday, March 08, 2013

Queer Quote: Bill Clinton Thinks DOMA Should Go

When Bill Clinton was president of the United States, he signed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law on September 21, 1996 while running for re-election. Now that DOMA is being reviewed by the United States Supreme Court in the United States v. Windsor case, President Clinton is announcing in a Washington Post editorial that he thinks the law should go away.

This excerpt from his op-ed is today's Queer Quote:
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. 
On March 27, DOMA will come before the Supreme Court, and the justices must decide whether it is consistent with the principles of a nation that honors freedom, equality and justice above all, and is therefore constitutional. As the president who signed the act into law, I have come to believe that DOMA is contrary to those principles and, in fact, incompatible with our Constitution.
Of course we will never know if having a federal law banning recognition of same-sex marriage "defused" the movement for a constitutional amendment. What we do know is that within 10 years of DOMA's passage dozens of states passed state constitutional amendments banning civil marriages for same-sex couples (so it is likely they would have ratified such an execrable federal marriage amendment). We also know that in that time frame President George W. Bush endorsed and the Republican Party tried to pass through the Congress such an amendment multiple times (which failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives). But we also know that Massachusetts enacted marriage equality in 2004 during that time, and that legally married same-sex couples have been denied federal recognition and benefits due to the enactment of DOMA. It seems unlikely that there are 38 states who would have ratified a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages during that time (but 31 states have voted against marriage equality since DOMA became law).

Gaytterdämmerung is coming (March 26 and March 27)!

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