Bill Clinton: I signed it, but now the Defense of Marriage Act must be overturned
Former US President Bill Clinton, has urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, writing an article which states that, despite signing it himself in 1996, we live in a “different time” and it must be repealed.
The 42nd President of the US wrote the article for the Washington Post, which states that DOMA is discriminatory, and lays out reasons why it should be overturned.
Writing on a statement he included with DOMA, when it was signed into law which said it should not be used to discriminate, Mr Clinton writes: “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.”
He goes on to quote Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, asking: “It is not ‘Can any of us imagine better?’ but ‘Can we all do better?’ ”
He concludes by writing that: “The answer is of course and always yes,” and that he will join President Obama in urging the court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Supreme Court is due on 26 March to take up the case of whether to overturn Proposition 8, which in 2008 added a clause to the Californian constitution stating that marriage could only be recognised by the state if it were between a man and a woman, causing widespread controversy.
The second case revolves around the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, passed under President Bill Clinton in 1996. President Obama has already stated that his administration will not defend cases brought against it.
The Obama administration, filed a brief in February, urging the Supreme Court to strike down blocks to equal marriage as did two top NFL players, both equal rights advocates, Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo, who filed an amicus brief with the court.
Clint Eastwood joined over 100 top Republicans who signed up to argue that the Supreme Court should overturn Proposition 8, and in her own way, TV host Ellen, gave her impassioned reasons for wanting to have equal marriage across the US.
The full text by Mr Clinton is available to read below:
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.
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