Bill Clinton says it’s time to overturn DOMA. Here’s why it matters.

Former President Bill Clinton has been a bit cagey about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the past.  He did, after all, sign DOMA into law in 1996, and then run radio ads in that year’s presidential election bragging about the “achievement” to religious right voters.  So, his history on the issue has been – how shall we say? – troubled.

To his credit, the former President came out last night and called for the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA, and rule it unconstitutional.

What is DOMA?

In a nutshell, DOMA does two main things.

1. It restricts the definition of “marriage” under federal law and regulation to only mean male-female copules; and

2. It “protects” states from having to recognize the legal same-sex marriages of other states.

What DOMA does not do is “ban” gay marriage.  But for all intents and purposes, it “bans” gay couples from receiving the federal benefits of marriage (of which there are over 1,100).

Why Bill Clinton’s opinion on DOMA matters

It’s not only symbolically important that Bill Clinton, the President who signed, and bragged about, DOMA is now in favor of striking down the law, it also may help us when the DOMA case goes before the Supreme Court at the end of this month.

bill clintonWhether on DOMA, or gay marriage generally, the Supreme Court will likely look towards a number of factors, including “society at large” in making its decision.  It’s thought that the court generally doesn’t like to get too far ahead of the culture when dealing with hot-button social issues.  So in the same way that President Obama’s recent re-embrace of same-sex marriage should help us before the court, Bill Clinton’s position on DOMA (and his embrace of marriage equality a while back) should help as well.

Back in 2009, when Bill Clinton renounced his former opposition to same-sex marriage, Kerry Eleveld interviewed former Clinton aide Richard Socarides about the import of the move.  Richard echoed my thoughts:

Richard Socarides, a special assistant and LGBT adviser to Clinton during his administration, said the remarks could help create a shift in the political winds that might reach the courts.

“Many of the lawyers I talk to don’t believe that the Defense of Marriage Act is going to be repealed by Congress in the next three to four years,” he said, adding that most attorneys see the legal challenges to DOMA as a more likely route to overturning the law.

“Whether it’s the Olson/Boies lawsuit or the Gill case, the issue is going to be, between now and the time they reach the Supreme Court, whether there’s enough of a change in the political will on this subject — have enough hearts and minds changed?” Socarides said, referring to two DOMA challenges, one emanating from California and the other from Massachusetts. “The fact that there’s a former sitting president — the guy who is responsible for the law — who now says that his position was ‘untenable’ will be the best thing for that case.

Socarides added that he believes Clinton’s choice of words were intentional.

“Nothing comes out of him that isn’t thoughtful and deliberate,” he said. “Did he consider that it would someday be used in a brief to the Supreme Court arguing that DOMA was unconstitutional? Yes, I’m sure he knew that.”

The Supreme Court looks to public opinion

The Los Angeles Times had an article a week ago that delved a little more deeply into this issue of how society influences the court.

But before signing on to major changes — abolishing the death penalty for young murderers, for example — [Supreme Court Justice Kennedy] has wanted to feel comfortable that the change was in line with public opinion and the trend in the law.

“Among all the justices, he is most concerned about public opinion,” New York University law professor Barry Friedman said of Kennedy. “The more there is a groundswell of support for gay marriage, the more it is likely he will vote to support it.”

Kennedy, along with others on the court, probably would also resist going too fast. The current justices, both liberals and conservatives, say the court of the early 1970s made a mistake by striking down all state laws on abortion and capital punishment. Both decisions appeared to trigger a backlash, and the death penalty was soon restored to law.

Better to move in line with — or just slightly ahead of — shifting opinion, they believe.

So I laud President Clinton’s move last night, regardless of whether or not our modern-day Machiavelli was motivated in part by a desire to help his wife’s expected candidacy for president in 2016.  All politicians are mini-Machiavellis. I’m not going to fault them for their motivations, I’ll judge them by their actions, and Clinton came around, and it should help us before the court, so he gets props regardless of his role in making DOMA a reality.

Why I don’t buy Clinton’s excuse for signing DOMA in the first place

I won’t, however, give the former president props for the excuse he’s now trotting out for signing DOMA in the first place:

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.

Well, I was there at the time, helping friends in the Senate who were working against DOMA’s passage, and there wasn’t a great fear in our hearts that if we killed DOMA we were doomed to accept a constitutional amendment.  Yes, there were concerns about such an amendment, and have been for years, but to suggest that DOMA was intended to “save” us from the Federal Marriage Amendment? I dissent.

Nonetheless, this was a classy, important, and welcome move from President Clinton.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

Share This Post

  • hollywoodstein

    You run girl.

  • hollywoodstein

    All about Hillz 2016.

  • Butch1

    He’s come to the dance 17 years too late. DADT and DOMA are all his doing and now he acts like they’re important to him? Perhaps he’s having a wee bit of nagging conscience bothering him for stabbing us in the back.

  • Bill_Perdue

    I’m not referring to the politics of either party but to the demonstrated fact that Democrats are far better liars and fool more people. For now. Their problem is that the era when they could lie with impunity and pretend not to be as right wing as the Republicans is over.

  • Sweetie

    No, it isn’t. It’s all the same shit with different wrapping paper.

  • Bill_Perdue

    It’s just that Democrats are better at it. When Republican fail the Democrats implement their program for them. That’s worse.

  • Sweetie

    My response is this: Go speak to the books in your library, Clinton. No one cares anymore. Your time has passed.

  • Sweetie

    DADT did only one good thing: It brought the bigotry to the fore by greatly increasing the number of discharges and showing that people like Colin Powell could openly mutiny against the “Commander In Chief”.

  • Sweetie

    Playing the worst game is a waste of time. They’re all crooks.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Clinton, like Obama, is a functional bigot. It makes no difference what their personal opinions are because they have none.

    If they serve the bigots, they are bigots.

  • EdA

    Well, a self-serving op-ed in the Washington Post is better than nothing. But he COULD have allowed both DOMA and DADT to become law without his signature.

    And even better than an op-ed would have been a Supreme Court brief opposing DOMA signed William Jefferson Clinton.

  • lynchie

    I agree. The Dems are still homophobic as a party. They just are vocal about how they feel. Naturally we take their silence as support for gay and lesbian issues but I don’t see them standing as a group/party and declaring DOMA should go. Clinton is a bought and paid for politician who did irreparable harm to the country.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    You say ‘venal coward’, I say ‘bigot.’ Let’s call the whole thing off.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Good god, I really can’t stand the fawning over the ole’ Dawg’s reformations.

  • Bill_Perdue

    He’s just sore because I shred his theories with the truth, with facts and with data. Poor thing.

  • samizdat

    Bill, a Freeper? LOL! Just because he doesn’t lick Democratic boot doesn’t mean he’s a whackjob Repub. Hell, I think Clinton was a coward to not veto it. Yes. A coward. All of the weasel rhetoric just sounds like so much Realpolitik.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Clinton first used those lies to cover his ass when he murdered half a million Iraqi children.

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20011203/cortright

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/763824.stm

    http://www.unicef.org/newsline/99pr29.htm

    http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0807-01.htm

    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673600022893/abstract

    http://www.unicef.org/evaldatabase/index_29697.html

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbIX1CP9qr4&playnext=1&list=PL4C21522D3C07C8FB

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf83udJfbMs

    Torture, kidnapping and murder were initiatives of the Clinton administration, not Bush. “Beginning in the early 1990′s and continuing to this day, the Central Intelligence Agency, together with other U.S. government agencies, has utilized an intelligence-gathering program involving the transfer of foreign nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism to detention and interrogation in countries where — in the CIA’s view — federal and international legal safeguards do not apply.

    The current policy traces its roots to the administration of former President Bill Clinton. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, what had been a limited program expanded dramatically, with some experts estimating that 150 foreign nationals have been victims of rendition in the last few years alone. Foreign nationals suspected of terrorism have been transported to detention and interrogation facilities in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Diego Garcia, Afghanistan, Guantánamo, and elsewhere. In the words of former CIA agent Robert Baer: “If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear — never to see them again — you send them to Egypt.” http://www.aclu.org/national-security/fact-sheet-extraordinary-rendition

    Clintons signature on NAFTA and the deregulation bills of 1999 and 2000 caused the current Clinton Depression.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Not at all. Democrats refuse to pass ENDA or repeal DOMA. DADT was a result of direct actions and the war departments need for cannon fodder. The Hate Crimes act is a sick joke.

    As for the rest, Democrats have been more effective at union busting since Carter deregulated transport and divided Ma Bell. He cost far more union jobs than Reagan did breaking the air traffic controllers.

    Reagan and Bush pushed NAFTA as a measure to break unions by exporting union jobs. Clinton championed and signed it as well as the Republican deregulation bills of 1999 and 2000. Clinton murdered half a million Iraqi children with his embargo of food, sanitary and medical supplies to Iraq. He lied and said it was to stop Hussein from making more WMD’s.

    Obama, although it’s an easy fix absolutely refuses to do anything real about mass unemployment because it drives down wages. Instead he and the FED gave trillions to banks. Obama is a far worse, more active and effective union bust than all the union busting Republican governors combined.

    They’re worse because they do what Republicans can’t do in part because some people still have illusions about the Democrats.

    Democrats are Republicans in drag.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Stop lying. I don’t care which of the parties of bigotry, war, racism, mass unemployment and Depression is in power. The result is the same in any case.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    DADT did not change the military code of justice, which continued to make sodomy a crime.

    The witchhunts continued after DADT just as before–and the rate of discharges INCREASED.

  • MyrddinWilt

    Before DADT the military actually had people spending their time trying to find gays in the armed forces. DADT was actually an improvement. Before DADT you could be prosecuted for being gay in the military and people were.

  • MyrddinWilt

    You are a complete fool to say that.

    George W. Bush was the worst by far. He stole the election. He went to war on a lie. He ordered torture for his own sexual gratification. He committed war crimes including the invasion of Iraq which lead to the deaths of half a million to a million people. He crashed the economy and added six trillion to the deficit.

    Anyone who thinks Clinton or even some of the recent Republicans come close is an utter fool.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    Yes, Holder should have been fired years ago–for lots of reasons, gay-related and unrelated.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    But that’s the point. Trying to position himself in the mainstream on DOMA today while making up a complete lie to try to excuse his past position shows no personal growth at all. He’s just positioning himself as he always has, with no remorse, no conscience, no regret, no growth.

  • FLL

    You can see exactly that tendency in Eric Holder. I’d rather see him replaced rather than waiting for him to die of old age.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    I won’t let them off the hook that easily. Old straight male Democratic strategists still, to this day, think touching any gay issue will destroy the party and President. I couldn’t care less whether they honestly believe that. The belief is driven by their own bigotry and easy willingness to just toss the gay community overboard. The Clinton ’96 team was guilty of the same prejudice.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    The suggestion that Democrats are worse than Republicans on gay rights is absurd.

  • FLL

    Agreed. And I also agree with you that the gay marriage issue, though unpopular at the time, would have been enough to land Bob Dole in the White House. The only thing that was important was that Bill Clinton and his handlers themselves believed that it could have lost them the election. I don’t believe it, but they did, and they acted on that belief. It took very little back then to spook Clinton into betraying the gay community. Your assessment is about right: “self-centered.”

  • Skeptical Cicada

    I think you missed the part of John’s post where he rejected Clinton’s lying about his motives.

    I, for one, make no apologies whatsoever for holding Barack Obama’s feet to the fire. He was being advised in his first two years by some of the very same anti-gay sell-outs who were advising Clinton. And, for the record, I was a vehement critic of Bill Clinton on gay rights when that asshole was in office. In fact, I hold no Democrat in greater contempt on gay rights than Bill Clinton.

    Contrary to what some of Barack Obama’s fanboys think, his black skin does NOT excuse him from deserved criticism when he sells out a Democratic constituency. The first black president is still the president. Although some of us were delighted to see him break the race barrier, we do not worship his black skin.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Democrats are worse than Republicans. Clinton and Obama are proof. And so are you for resorting to inane and inept personal attacks when your ideas get shot down in flames, as they do every time .

    Do you have even the slightest shred of proof for you silly assertion that “those percentages from Pew Research Center that you keep quoting are because Bill Clinton signed DOMA.” According to Pew Clinton entered the fall leading 51 to 43%.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    I never had the impression that Clinton was a rabid homophobe. I think the better interpretation is that he was utterly and completely self-centered and willing to betray the gay community in an instant if he encountered even a hint of challenge. He was a venal coward, not a bigot.

    I agree with you that polling numbers can change and campaigns tend to be obsessive and paranoid about anything that could change them. I’m not so sure, though, that the gay marriage issue, even though deeply unpopular, would have been enough to life Bob
    Dole to victory. The Democratic Party has a long and ugly tradition of scapegoating gays for the Party’s own failures. Gay marriage was such an obscure issue in 1996, I doubt it would have motivated that many people who weren’t already Republican voters.

  • FLL

    I have two reasons for questioning Perdue’s sincerity. He keeps citing the percentage by which Clinton was ahead of Dole. This ignores what everyone knows to be true, which is that had Clinton refused to sign DOMA and Dole had inundated the country with anti-gay ads 24/7, those percentages would have been much different. Perdue’s theory is that Clinton did this because he was a committed homophobe, thus exonerating the Republicans in Congress who cooked DOMA up in the first place. We both know that Clinton would have preferred that DOMA would never have been shoved in front of him, and he signed it to help his reelection effort. Perdue is a constant cheerleader for the Republican Party. More than that, he is dishonest about his intentions, which is the definition of a troll.

  • Teatime

    This is highly amusing to see the apologies made for Bill Clinton. Less we forget, he also ran TV Ads in the south stressing, even bragging, about signing DOMA. John, you and your crew are so transparent but it is expected. If this was the “Black Man”, your heads would explode. And for those not familiar with Rachael, it is being used in that light — “The Gay” or “The Google”.

    Socarides along w/John have done nothing but bash Obama for not delivering on LGBT issues on Socarides’ /John’s own timeline. Yet, both rationalize and pull out all the stops to build a case that political reality made signing DOMA necessary. It was the time, he would have lost — go back and look at the polling data — Clinton would not have lost. Congressmen in congressional districts was a different story but the incumbent President.

    I would argue that from a legal and practical standpoint, Bill Clinton did more harm to the LGBT community than George Bush (either). For the naysayers, name a LAW that Bush signed affecting the LGBT community. As many have pointed out, Democrats and the Democratic President ‘own’ DOMA & DADT.

    Hey John, you’re constantly railing about the Big Banks: Glass-Steagall (banking
    laws) was repealed in 1999. Google who was the POTUS.

  • Steve_in_CNJ

    I didn’t say he owned up to anything, especially Glass-Steagall. He has moved on DOMA and that’s a big thing. Chances are he will be dead before any further personal growth occurs.

  • FLL

    Keep trying to make the Republicans look good, troll. Remember Ronald Reagan’s eleventh commandment: “Never speak ill of a fellow Republican.”

  • Bill_Perdue

    There aren’t any trolls here with the possible exception of the occasional DNC troll.

  • Bill_Perdue

    No, it wasn’t about his election campaign. It was about his bigotry.

    He was ahead. “Wrong. Clinton was way ahead. He signed DOMA because he’s a bigot who wants people to forget how much damage he did and to prepare the way for 2016.
    In the survey by the Pew Research Center, Obama is ahead of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney 51 percent to 43 percent, the largest advantage in September the survey has shown for any presidential nominee among likely voters since 1996, when Clinton — then seeking re-election — led Republican challenger Bob Dole, 50 percent to 38 percent.
    Businessweek 09 19 2012m

  • Skeptical Cicada

    He is not almost there. His entire Jesus on a Cross schtick about courageously saving the gay community by signing the most hideously anti-gay piece of legislation in history is a complete and utter self-serving lie.

    Let’s recall those pro-DOMA ads his re-election campaign ran on Christian radio. He was a backstabbing pig.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    No, no, Bill Clinton must be defended and all excuses must be made for him because as a Democratic leader he must be worshiped and his cock must be sucked.

  • FLL

    Your facts concerning the timeline for a federal constitutional marriage amendment check out perfectly. Thank you for reminding us that Bill Clinton started advertising on Christian radio about how he signed DOMA. I’m sure Bill Clinton would have preferred if the congressional Republicans had never shoved DOMA in his face in the first place, but once they did, it was all about Clinton’s reelection campaign.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    I don’t want the lying piece of shit anywhere near us. His entire effort to portray himself as some kind of big gay hero is disgusting. As far as I’m concerned, he can rot with his cock up another intern.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    DADT was virtually NO DIFFERENT from the previous policy. They replaced “being gay” with “saying you’re gay.” And the discharges continued unabated.

    What the fuck is your problem? Get your head out of Bill Clinton’s asshole.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    Can you blame him for having his campaign tout his signing DOMA in ads they placed on Christian radio? Or would you like to continue making excuses for the triangulating backstabber?

  • Skeptical Cicada

    I am no Free Republic troll, and I challenge just about every word of your pro-Clinton shilling.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    No member of Congress had even thought to introduce a marriage amendment until 2002. Bill Clinton’s story is nothing short of a complete self-serving lie. It wasn’t even about probabilities of ratification. There was no such movement for any such amendment until years later.

    This amendment story is a fabrication trumped up by the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008.

    Clinton could have allowed it to become law without his signature. But he WANTED his signature on it. That’s why his campaign instantly started advertising on Christian radio about how he signed DOMA and protected marriage.

    He was a triangulating, backstabbing pig.

  • FLL

    [DING DING DING DING DING!] Right on target, Cicada. The Newt-Gingrich-Strom-Thurmond-controlled Congress of 1996 threw DOMA in Bill Clinton’s face as an election-year ploy. Clinton chose the interests of his reelection campaign above all else. Therefore, it’s very self-serving of Bill Clinton to try to make himself look more noble in retrospect by offering up the non-existent possibility of a federal constitutional amendment in 1996. On the congressional side, most agree that the Republican Congress would have easily overridden a Clinton veto of DOMA.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    No, there was no such momentum. No member of Congress even introduced any version of the amendment until 2002! Unfortunately for those who feel some need to defend Bill Clinton’s backstabbing ass, there actually are FACTS out there.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    Bill Clinton is a pathological liar. How dare he portray himself as some kind of gay hero for signing the most horrendously anti-gay piece of legislation in American history! It was a complete and utter betrayal of the gay community with one simple motive: making his own re-election easier. Fuck him!

    There was NO serious movement for a federal marriage amendment until the mid-2000s. Hillary Clinton sycophants concocted that intelligence-insulting explanation for her 2008 presidential race. The first version of the amendment wasn’t even introduced in Congress until 2002. That was H.J. Res. 93, 107th Cong., and it had only six co-sponsors. The serious effort did not ramp up until early 2004, when Robert Bork published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for it. That op-ed was part of the roll-out of the right-wing effort to get the amendment and, not coincidentally, re-elect George W. Bush. How miraculous that by betraying the gay community in 1996, Bill Clinton somehow “defused” an amendment that did not emerge until nearly a DECADE later and YEARS after he left office. Fuck him!

    A federal marriage amendment would not even have made political sense for Republicans in 1996. It was no coincidence that the Republican Congress sent DOMA to Clinton for his signature or veto in the summer of 1996. What, pray tell, was happening in the summer of 1996? That’s right, his fucking re-election campaign. They sent him the bill to force him to either sign it–and risk alienating gay supporters–or veto it–and allow Republicans to attack him for supporting gay marriage. A constitutional amendment would not even have served that purpose for a very simple reason: Constitutional amendments DON’T GO TO THE PRESIDENT FOR APPROVAL. They go from Congress to the States for ratification. A constitutional amendment would not have forced Clinton to take a position by signing or vetoing legislation, which was DOMA’s purpose.

    So fuck Bill Clinton and his self-serving lying about DOMA! The unindicted PERJUERER doesn’t even have the guts to admit that his signing DOMA was nothing more than a self-serving triangulation to make his re-election easier. It was ALL ABOUT BILL and GETTING HIS ASS A SECOND TERM, a second term which he could then proceed to DESTROY because he couldn’t keep his COCK out of an INTERN!

    FUCK HIM!!!!!!!

  • Bill_Perdue

    My quote from above “Wrong. Clinton was way ahead . He signed DOMA because he’s a bigot who wants people to forget how much damage he did and to prepare the way for 2016.
    In the survey by the Pew Research Center, Obama is ahead of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney 51 percent to 43 percent, the largest advantage in September the survey has shown for any presidential nominee among likely voters since 1996, when Clinton — then seeking re-election — led Republican challenger Bob Dole, 50 percent to 38 percent. Businessweek 09 19 2012m

  • FLL

    Your quote from above, yet again:

    “The point is Democrats are much, much worse than Republicans.”

    I think our readers have basic reading comprehension.

  • Bill_Perdue

    I presented evidence and tore that part of your analysis to shreds. Sorry about that.

    And then, typically, you have a hissy fit and accuse me of being a Republican, which is almost as bad as being a Democrat. When are you going to grow up realize that what counts is evidence not inept personal attacks.

  • FLL

    Wrong. You’re a shill for the Republicans because you’re kissing up to… [drumroll]… your stupid relatives. You even say so in your comment above:

    “The point is Democrats are much, much worse than Republicans.”

    Go back to Free Republic, troll.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Wrong. Clinton was way ahead . He signed DOMA because he’s a bigot who wants people to forget how much damage he did and to prepare the way for 2016.

    In the survey by the Pew Research Center, Obama is ahead of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney 51 percent to 43 percent, the largest advantage in September the survey has shown for any presidential nominee among likely voters since 1996, when Clinton — then seeking re-election — led Republican challenger Bob Dole, 50 percent to 38 percent. Businessweek 09 19 2012

  • Bill_Perdue

    That’s just plain wrong. DADT was military bigotry personified. It led to massive discrimination, lots of violence and at least one murder.

  • Bill_Perdue

    DOMA is the sole responsibility of Bill Clinton.

    Newt Gingrich didn’t sign it, Clinton did. One of the reasons so many Democrats, including Barbara Mikulski, who might have known better and rightwing Joe Biden, (D-Bank of America) supported DOMA was because Bill Clinton championed it, just as he championed other Republican bills like NAFTA and the deregulation bills of 1999 and 2009.

    Bill Clinton and the Democrats own DOMA.

  • dula

    He has the “courage” to speak out about DOMA, now that Gay Rights aren’t that controversial anymore but he won’t make amends for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act because dirty bankers would be upset.

  • bbock

    I also do not give Clinton any credit for being brave, heroic or any other positive attribute on this issue. And he STILL has not apologized. An apology starts “I am sorry that I ….” and it does not include excuses. His excuse that he signed it because he was trying to protect gays from a Constitutional amendment are bullshit. DOMA had such broad support in congress that if he had been brave and honorable on the issue, rather than holding a signing ceremony, if he had vetoed the bill or just pocket vetoed it by not signing it, they would have overridden it. So bullshit on Clinton. Liar. Opportunist. He comes in at the last minute and jumps on the civil rights bandwagon. He COULD have apologized. He could have spoken against it when his wife did in 2007. He could have spoken up when Biden led Obama to speak against it. But he did not. It was not to his advantage. Just as it was when he signed the bill into law, he is NOT doing this for gays. He’s doing this for Bill Clinton. He’s polishing his legacy and trying to make sure nobody holds it against his Wife when she runs for the presidency in a year or two. Bill Clinton is a coward when it comes to civil rights, not a hero.

  • MyrddinWilt

    That was DADT earlier. And Clinton admitted the opposition was a complete surprise.

    But DADT was still a big improvement on the previous policy.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Bill Clinton is the worst president in recent history.

    The Republicans are the party most self-identified as the party of the rich. When they can’t get something passed the rich turn to Democrats like Carter to wield the knife in the back. Carter began deregulation of transport and effected the MA Bell breakup. Clinton championed and signed Republican sponsored bills like NAFTA, DADT, DOMA, slashing welfare, adding cops and the twin deregulation bills of 1999, the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act. One year later he signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act that unleashed predatory lenders, creating the housing bubble which burst, creating the current Depression. Then in the last two years of his administration, using lies about WMD’s he ordered the murder of half a million Iraqi children with his embargo of food, military and sanitary supplies to Iraq,

    The point is Democrats are much, much worse than Republicans. As the good folks at Black Agenda Report say “Let me say from the very beginning that we at Black Agenda Report do not think that Barack Obama is the Lesser Evil. He is the more Effective Evil. He has been more effective in Evil-Doing than Bush in terms of protecting the citadels of corporate power, and advancing the imperial agenda. He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks – just as he hired himself out to do.” http://blackagendareport.com/content/why-barack-obama-more-effective-evil

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I’ll be pragmatic and admit that, whatever his self-excuses and -justification, Clinton’s unequivocal endorsement for overturning DOMA is a good thing. For sure it doesn’t hurt.

    The case for overturning is as strong as it’s ever been, and the legal rationales for upholding become more ludicrous with each passing day. Now it’s because marriage exists to help support unplanned babies, nothing more? And marriage “is and always has been one man and one woman…oh, and pay no attention to history or the Bible we like to quote so frequently”?

    But I’m with you, John — the real danger wasn’t a Constitutional Amendment, not then. The actual dangers were twofold. One is that the Democratic party was nearly as riddled through with homophobes as the GOP, anti-gay bigots in positions of power and influence, and who were determined to make the Dems as socially conservative as they could get away with. And the other was the usual political calculation that abridging the civil rights of a long-oppressed small minority was preferable to pissing off the fundamentalist Christians. DOMA and DADT were specifically designed to throw gays under the bus.

  • wtf2

    When is he owning up to deregulation of Wall Street–an act that has been a great source of wealth to himself, his wife and his daughter?

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    +1

  • Glenn I

    Clinton could have let DOMA become law without his signature. That way he would have acknowledged the reality that any veto would have been overridden. But his name would not have been on the law.

  • MichaelS

    Must take issue with you John – you may have been inside government at the time, but from the outside, it was made very clear to the public back then that there was momentum to put a constitutional amendment in place banning gay marriage, and it may well have been ratified, given the chance. Like Clinton’s motivation for signing DADT (he was backed into a corner even by the Dems who opposed opening up the military), I never faulted Clinton for DOMA — even at the time it happened. My only criticism was that it took so long for him to come around publicly on the issue, but I hold the same criticism of Obama. Better late than never.

  • nicho

    When will he own up to his plans to gut Social Security and Medicare, something from which we were saved by the tender mercies of Monica Lewinsky — and her little blue dress.

  • nicho

    No, but you can blame Clinton for gross political miscalculation. To tackle such a visceral issue when his own grasp on power was still tentative was a huge mistake. Don’t forget that the real agent of evil in this was Democrat Sam Nunn — who rigged the “hearings,” in which Pentagon brass appeared before Congress and perjured themselves under oath. Pentagon motto: “We WILL lie, cheat, and steal — and promote those who do.”

  • FLL

    John, I’ll agree that Bill Clinton’s rationalization of DOMA concerning a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is dishonest. An amendment to the U.S. Constitution needs a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, and then must be ratified by three-fourths of the legislatures of each state of the Union. That is a huge hurdle that DOMA never would have cleared in 1996, and Bill Clinton knows it. The real reason Bill Clinton signed DOMA was that his Republican opponent in 1996, Bob Dole, and the rest of the Republican Party promised that if Bill Clinton didn’t sign DOMA, they would make his refusal to sign DOMA the centerpiece of Bob Dole’s presidential campaign and succeed in denying Bill Clinton a second term in office. That is true. Why is true? Because everybody’s stupid relatives (including the relatives of many of the commenters on this very board) were so bigoted in 1996 that they would have been horrified that Bill Clinton didn’t sign DOMA, and they would have elected Bob Dole president instead.

    Beyond that, Bill Clinton’s present statement in opposition to DOMA will certainly make an impression on the Supreme Court justices. The very president who signed DOMA is now urging them to strike it down. That makes it so obvious that it’s time for DOMA to go, and the justices would only be embarrassing themselves to uphold DOMA.

  • MyrddinWilt

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_of_Marriage_Act

    Passed the House on July 12, 1996 (Yeas: 342; Nays: 67)
    Passed the Senate on September 10, 1996 (Yeas: 85; Nays: 14)

    The vote was lost by 85% and the GOP controlled both Houses. There was no doubt that they would pass a veto over ride.

    Can blame Clinton for not taking a stronger stand on the subject but not for the consequences of DOMA. Those were the sole responsibility of Newt Gingrich, his fellow GOP bigots and the Democrats who didn’t have the guts to stand up to them. DOMA was going to become law with or without Clinton’s signature.

  • S1AMER

    To this day, lots of people are damning him for signing the damned thing in the first place. I suspect the cynical political calculus back then was correct: A veto would have been overridden anyhow (remember, only 14 senators voted against DOMA, and the record in the House was as bad or worse), and would quite likely have cost him the White House (“Dole for Equality” sounds oxymoronic to me).

    So, I say: Thanks for standing with us now, Bill! I wish it had been a very different world in 1996, but that was then, and now is now. And now you’re firmly on our side, and I’m very glad for your company.

    (Next: How’s about a rousing statement of support from you, Hillary? Please?)

  • Steve_in_CNJ

    Everyone has trouble owning up to their worst mistakes. Bill Clinton (DOMA, NAFTA, blue dress) is no exception. He is almost there on DOMA. We’ll take what we can get.

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