Constitutional Law

Bill Clinton: DOMA should be overturned


Bill Clinton. Alan Freed /

Former President Bill Clinton has changed his mind about the Defense of Marriage Act, the law that denies federal benefits to gay couples who are legally married.

Clinton signed the bill into law in 1996. Now, in a Washington Post opinion column, Clinton says the law should be overturned.

“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,” Clinton writes. “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.”

Clinton says 1996 was “a very different time.” No state recognized gay marriages, and some believed DOMA would defuse support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. When he signed the bill, Clinton says, he included a statement that the law should not be 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,” Clinton writes. “It should be overturned.

The Caucus blog of the New York Times points out that Clinton signed the bill just weeks before his re-election.

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