Bill Clinton: Defense of Marriage Law 'Discriminatory,' Should be Overturned

Friday, 08 Mar 2013 09:51 AM

By Michael Mullins

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In a Washington Post op-ed published Thursday, former President Bill Clinton tried to explain how he could have signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 while he's now calling it "discriminatory" and arguing that the law should be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the Thursday op-ed piece, Clinton wrote:

"[When] I signed the Defense of Marriage Act . . . 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."

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"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," Clinton continued.

About the "discriminatory" aspect of the act, Clinton wrote on Thursday:

"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."

Clinton on Thursday compared DOMA's overturning to the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote saying, "but a society that denied women the vote would seem to us now not unusual or old-fashioned but alien. I believe that in 2013 DOMA and opposition to marriage equality are vestiges of just such an unfamiliar society."

President Barack Obama supported DOMA in his 2008 campaign, but reversed his stance in February 2011, announcing that the U.S. Justice Department would no longer defend the constitutionality of the federal law.

Clinton on Thursday linked his opposition to DOMA with that of Obama, writing: "I join with the Obama administration . . . and the many other dedicated men and women who have engaged in this struggle for decades in urging the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act."

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On March 27 the Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearing arguments against the constitutionality of DOMA. Fifteen states are actively challenging DOMA before the high court, arguing that the federal refusal to recognize gay marriage is unconstitutional.

Related stories:

Inhofe: Obama Destroys DOMA with Military Benefits to Same-sex Couples

House GOP Oks $3M to Defend DOMA

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