Friday, March 08, 2013

Clinton Opposes DOMA

It is a strange twist of history that the Defense of Marriage Act was created during Bill Clinton's term of office as President and was signed into law by him. The law is nothing but the codification of discrimination against gay people, saying that the federal government will not recognize their marriages. Today the former President has a landmark editorial in the Washington Post.
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.

Because Section 3 of the act defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, same-sex couples who are legally married in nine states and the District of Columbia are denied the benefits of more than a thousand federal statutes and programs available to other married couples. Among other things, these couples cannot file their taxes jointly, take unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured spouse or receive equal family health and pension benefits as federal civilian employees. Yet they pay taxes, contribute to their communities and, like all couples, aspire to live in committed, loving relationships, recognized and respected by our laws.

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.

We are still a young country, and many of our landmark civil rights decisions are fresh enough that the voices of their champions still echo, even as the world that preceded them becomes less and less familiar. We have yet to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, 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.

Americans have been at this sort of a crossroads often enough to recognize the right path. We understand that, while our laws may at times lag behind our best natures, in the end they catch up to our core values. One hundred fifty years ago, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln concluded a message to Congress by posing the very question we face today: “It is not ‘Can any of us imagine better?’ but ‘Can we all do better?’?”

The answer is of course and always yes. In that spirit, I join with the Obama administration, the petitioner Edith Windsor, 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. It’s time to overturn DOMA
We like to believe that right and wrong are engraved in some permanent crystalline edifice, preserved, immutable, in a special place in the world of Platonic ideals, but in reality right and wrong are human judgments made under particular circumstances. At best we can hope that our understanding of the criteria for judging phenomena is improving with time, evolving toward a fairer, kinder, more objective perspective. There are constant social pressures to return to a darker age, and they must be resisted. Clinton has seen his Don't Ask Don't Tell policy defamed and thrown out, and now he is leading the charge against another prejudicial piece of legislation that has his signature at the bottom. Hopefully the Supreme Court will consider carefully, considering the context of American history, in 1996 and in 2013.


Anonymous Robert said...

Hooray for Bill.

March 08, 2013 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clinton, like President Obama — who went from opposing same-sex marriage to saying he believes the Constitution should guarantee marriage for same-sex couples — has evolved.

But the GOP clearly hasn’t.

Gay groups are still not allowed to participate in the most prominent right-wing event of the year, CPAC — though birthers like Donald Trump are. The Republican Platform not only calls for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, it wants to reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, another Clinton-era compromise that banned admitted homosexuals from serving in the military.

The biggest problem for the GOP is that their stand on same-sex marriage hurts them with exactly the voters they need to woo to ever have a hope of winning a presidential election.

“A new Quinnipiac poll out today drives this home with striking clarity: It finds that gay marriage has far greater support among constituencies that are growing as a share of the vote than it does with the public overall,”The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent reports.

“The poll finds that a plurality of Americans supports same sex marriage, 47-43. But dig into the internals and you find that the groups that increasingly make up the main pillars of the Democratic coalition support it in much larger numbers. Hispanics: 63-32. Young voters: 62-30. College educated whites: 59-32. White women: 50-40.”

The only people who oppose marriage equality? Republicans, non-college-educated whites, and evangelicals. Voters the GOP would win even if they nominated the conservative who best exemplifies the “sanctity of marriage” — the thrice-married Newt Gingrich.

The 17 years since Clinton signed DOMA have contained remarkable progress fueled by a patient but urgent gay rights movement. Because of that, President Obama became the first president to speak out for gay rights in his inaugural.

And Republicans need to be aware that he won’t be the last.

March 09, 2013 10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Clinton, like President Obama — who went from opposing same-sex marriage to saying he believes the Constitution should guarantee marriage for same-sex couples — has evolved."

neither of these individuals evolved at all, they simply decided they could now support this without consequence

all others things being equal, there are few people who would otherwise vote Republican and would change their vote over this

in short, regardless of what they tell a pollster on the phone, no one cares about this

March 12, 2013 5:45 AM  
Anonymous A special interest wants more rights said...

Right, nobody cares about marriage equality, like all those people in the Citizens for Responsible Whatever who repeatedly sued and lost to MCPS over the revised sex education curriculum that encourages the treatment of all human beings with respect.

Maybe you should move to Kentucky, Anon, because you might feel more "protected" there since Kentucky bill could protect discrimination as “religious freedom”.

March 12, 2013 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Four years ago, after the state’s supreme court ruled a ban on gay unions was unconstitutional, Iowa became the third state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Since then, the lives of average Iowans have remained pretty much the same, says Molly Tafoya, communications director for the gay advocacy group One Iowa. Which isn’t the outcome many opponents had warned against. ”It’s, quite frankly, a disaster,” Brian English, a spokesman for the Iowa Family Policy Center, said in 2009 after the court handed down its ruling.

But there are no disasters to be found, Tafoya told CNN Radio. “The sky hasn’t fallen and nothing really has changed for the day-to-day.” Well, except one small thing: “I think we’re seeing a growing acceptance among Iowans, who just see this as the new normal here.”

Including among lawmakers who once staunchly opposed marriage equality. Like former state senator Jeff Angelo, who has come to understand that the heated and inflammatory rhetoric of the 2009 debate had little to do with real life, how real Iowans cared for their families and worked together in their communities:

“Most of our small towns have people in them that are gay, and live peaceful lives. They’re not made to feel like outsiders. So what occurred to me was that the political debate didn’t really match up what was going on in Iowa communities. And that’s when I thought this is just unfair. There’s no evil force that’s out there that’s trying to destroy marriage. It was people that just wanted to fall in love, and have stable families and monogamous relationships just like I do. That’s what changed my mind.”

That’s quite a turn around from a man who sponsored the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the state.

In a 2011 speech on his evolving position, Angelo spoke directly to the paranoia that fuels so much of the conservative opposition to marriage equality: “There’s no nebulous force out there trying to change our communities or hurt anyone’s marriage. We’re talking about our friends, our neighbors and our families.”


Well, almost boom.

Like many other Republicans coming around to marriage equality, Angelo said that the government dictating relationships between consenting adults is a violation of “personal liberty” in line with gun control measures that encroach on people’s freedom to, you know, shoot other people. And just as Jon Huntsman argued that the GOP should drop the gay marriage fight to focus on deregulating markets and cutting taxes for millionaires — it’s just a mixed bag with these guys.

Still, bipartisan support for marriage equality is an important step forward, one more conservative lawmakers seem willing to take.

March 12, 2013 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Like Dick Cheney, another GOPer sees the light said...

CINCINNATI (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio says he now supports gay marriage because one of his sons is gay.

Portman told reporters Thursday in Washington that his views began changing in 2011 when his college-age son Will told his parents he was gay.

Portman says he reconsidered gay marriage from a different perspective, one of a father who wants all three of his children to have happy lives with people they love.

He says he discussed the issue with his pastor and others, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter is a lesbian.

As a member of the House in 1996, Portman had voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

March 15, 2013 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leading up to this year’s CPAC, one of the big sources of controversy was the conference’s decision to exclude GOProud, the gay Republican group, from the festivities. At a time when Republicans say they want to be more inclusive, two back-to-back panels on Thursday showed that there’s not quite a consensus on this as a path forward.

First up was “Stop THIS”: Threats, harassment, intimidation, slander & bullying from the Obama Administration,” a largely underattended panel that discussed the “vilification” of conservatives for their positions on voter ID and gay marriage, among other things. Brian Brown, of the National Organization for Marriage, told the room not to “accept that the civil libertarian position is the position that somehow we need to embrace same-sex marriage,” adding: “What we need is people standing up more than ever for marriage as between a man and a woman.”...

But, immediately after, in a small but totally packed room in the convention center, a different group of conservatives had another perspective. The panel was called “A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the coalition, bringing tolerance out of the closet,” and though unofficially affiliated with CPAC, featured the exiled head of GOProud, Jimmy LaSalvia, as well as other pro-gay marriage conservatives.

“We have tolerated something in our movement for far too long: bigotry against gay people,” LaSalvia said. “There are a few in our movement who just don’t like gay people.” He added: “Bigotry has to be called out and condemned,” it’s the “same as racism.”

March 15, 2013 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I ask some questions about the following statement? "... right and wrong are human judgments made under particular circumstances. At best we can hope that our understanding of the criteria for judging phenomena is improving with time, evolving toward a fairer, kinder, more objective perspective. There are constant social pressures to return to a darker age, and they must be resisted."

Is this statement the truth, and if so, how do you know that, if objective truth does not exist?

If objective truth does not exist, and truth is instead relative to one's individual circumstances, what is the basis for your hope that "understanding of the criteria for judging phenomena is improving with time?"

If the truth cannot be known, how do you know the direction you are proposing to go is forward, and not itself a path to some "darker age?"

Finally, without objective truth, what basis do you have for saying some previous time was a "darker age?"

Thank you.

March 27, 2013 12:28 PM  

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