Monday, October 26, 2015

Bill and Hillary Clinton are rewriting the history of DOMA

Hillary Clinton made the following comments in a Rachel Maddow interview on Friday, October 24 :

MADDOW:  On – on the issue of finding a path between the left and the right, finding what’s doable and what’s not doable, I’m a true-blue liberal, and I’m allowed to say that.  OK?

But one of the things that I have been struck by – and during the Obama administration – is that a lot of the – really, the civil rights achievements of this administration have actually been undoing things that were done in the Clinton administration.

Whether it was “don’t ask, don’t tell” or the Defense of Marriage Act or the – you know, tough on crime (ph) mandatory sentences.  Former President Clinton is progressive on all those issues now…

CLINTON:  Right.

MADDOW:  …but the policies that he signed – for politically practical reasons – in the ’90s have taken – you know, the political mural – miracle of Barack Obama’s election and – and – and a decade of progressive activism to unwind those things to get back to zero.

And so I know that you and President Clinton are different people, and I know that – I don’t – you – you’re not responsible for what he did as president.  But is your approach to civil rights issues the same as his, or is it different?

CLINTON:  Well, I – I want to say a word about the – the issues you mentioned, because my – my – my take on it is slightly different.

On Defense of Marriage, I think what my husband believed – and there was certainly evidence to support it – is that there was enough political momentum to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that there had to be some way to stop that.

And there wasn’t any rational argument – because I was in on some of those discussions, on both “don’t ask, don’t tell” and on – on DOMA, where both the president, his advisers and occasionally I would – you know, chime in and talk about, “you can’t be serious.  You can’t be serious.”

But they were.  And so, in – in a lot of ways, DOMA was a line that was drawn that was to prevent going further.

MADDOW:  It was a defensive action?

CLINTON:  It was a defensive action.  The culture rapidly changed so that now what was totally anathema to political forces – they have ceded.  They no longer are fighting, except on a local level and a rear-guard action.  And with the U.S. Supreme Court decision, it’s settled.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is something that – you know, Bill promised during the ‘92 campaign to let gays serve openly in the military.  And it’s what he intended to do.


This is not the first time the Clintons have offered this narrative about the 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage - namely, that it was passed into law to prevent the passage of a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Bill Clinton made the same claim 2 years ago. His claimed was debunked then, as follows :

Statement from Elizabeth Birch, President of the Human Rights Campaign.

"The fact is that the true threat of a Federal Marriage Amendment did not arise until 2004."

Another statement from Elizabeth Birch

Statement from David Mixner, gay activist.
"Clinton today says he signed it to prevent a Constitutional Amendment from passing. The problem with that argument is that such an amendment wasn't really even being considered in a serious way. Not until Karl Rove got a hold of the idea after 2000 did the amendment concept have any legs at all. It just wasn't a serious political factor at all in 1996. "

Article about this claim, including a statement from Evan Wolfson, founder of "Freedom to Marry.
"In 1996, “there was no serious prospect that Congress was going to enact a discriminatory constitutional amendment for the first time ever,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. “That threat was not even significantly talked about.”"

No one should believe that Bill Clinton did the gay community any favors by favoring and signing DOMA on September 21, 1996.
The federal marriage amendment was not an imminent threat, at the time.
Clinton signed DOMA in the name of political expediency, namely to further his 1996 re-election campaign.  This calculation worked.

While it is true that political realities at the time mean that there was very little support nationwide for same-sex marriage, it took the LGBT community and the Supreme Court 19 years to completely overturn this discriminatory law - which finally happened on June 26, 2015.

Bill and Hillary Clinton should refrain from rewriting history. They have both evolved on the subject of same-sex marriage. There is no need to pretend that DOMA was a favor to the LGBT community. Doing so will not earn them any goodwill, but will rather anger all the marriage equality activists who had to work so hard to undo DOMA.