Too Late for Apologies? Bill Clinton for Now Opposing DOMA
Bloggers and pundits are weighing in about former President Bill Clinton’s recent op-ed piece for the Washington Post in which he urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. Clinton signed the bill into law in 1996.
Clinton’s op-ed expressed his having come to the conclusion -- 17 years later -- that DOMA is, in fact, not in agreement with the U.S. Constitution (which, he fails to point out, he swore to uphold at two inaugurations). What has really infuriated many activists, however, is his claim that he only approved DOMA in order to avoid legislation that would have made things worse for the LGBT community.
In the past 17 years, DOMA has proved to be an ongoing nightmare for LGBT Americans. Although same-sex marriage is now legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, such couples are subject to a myriad of restrictions on the federal level. They have to file separate federal taxes and have to go through hoops regarding everything from adoptions to estate taxes.
Clinton went through a bruising experience early in his administration when he unsuccessfully tried to repeal the ban on openly serving military personnel but instead ended up with DADT as a compromise. After that run-in with Congress, many scholars and LGBT activists believe that he decided to put LGBT rights on the back burner.
The op-ed piece expresses Cinton’s volte-face on marriage equality. He believes the American public’s views on marriage equality have changed enough to accept this. He also has come to the conclusion that the law discriminates against same-sex couples, which apparently did not occur to him previously.
"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," he writes. Many, however, have rejected Clinton’s piece as political expediency and are particularly infuriated by that "I have come to believe" as ingenious at best.
In his Huffington Post column, Michelangelo Signorile accused Clinton of signing DOMA because "he refused to be leader on a civil rights issue, irrationally fearful of the ramifications of vetoing the bill and rationalizing the damage caused by signing it."
Clinton’s "refusal to take leadership really goes back to day one of his presidency," Signorile wrote. "That was when he signaled to the GOP, like a frightened person on the street signals fear to a barking dog, that he was deathly afraid of the gay issue and would not be a leader on it."
Speculation swirls around why he even decided to write it. "Better late than never I suppose," wrote a commenter with the handle The Professor on Joe My God. "He neglects to mention he also signed DOMA to help himself get re elected in an ugly campaign, but hey... we’ll take it,"
Another reader speaks for many observers when he pointed out that Clinton’s actions may well be tied to his very active promotion of his wife to become the second Clinton to become president. Bill Clinton’s behind-the-scenes dissing of Barak Obama early in his wife’s aborted 2008 bid threw a shadow over the former president’s liberal credentials.
"I’m still waiting for a real apology and I believe this is completely calculated, Bill just making nice with the gays to smooth Hillary’s prospects in 2016," another commenter wrote.
Kevin Naff, editor-in-chief of the Washington Blade, opined that Clinton’s late-in-the-game mea culpa is a "typically cynical, desperate bid to rewrite history."
Naff dismissed Clinton’s op-ed as "a naked attempt to get on the right side of history before the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA. He sounds desperate, highlighting the fact that ’DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress.’