Clinton urges Supreme Court to overturn DOMA
March 7th, 2013
09:52 PM ET
10 years ago

Clinton urges Supreme Court to overturn DOMA

(CNN) – Former President Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law in 1996, is now calling on the Supreme Court to rule the same law unconstitutional.

The law, which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, denies federal benefits to same-sex couples in the nine states where same-sex couples can now legally wed.

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"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 wrote in an op-ed published online Thursday night by The Washington Post.

He continued: "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."

When it first became law, Clinton wrote "it was a very different time." He added that many supporters of the bill believed 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."

Under those circumstances, he wrote, the bill came to his desk, opposed by 81 out of 535 members of Congress.

Fast forward to 2013, and the climate is much different. Nine states (plus the District of Columbia) have passed laws allowing same-sex marriage and public opinion polls shows a majority of Americans think it should be legal. According to a CBS News poll conducted last month, 54% of Americans think same-sex couples should have the right to legally wed, while 39% oppose same-sex marriage.

Looking back, Clinton said he had hoped DOMA would not provide an excuse for discrimination. "I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory," he wrote. "It should be overturned."

Same-sex couples who are legally married in the United States are still denied "more than a thousand federal statutes and programs available to other married couples" because of the law, he wrote.

While he previously opposed same-sex marriage, Clinton went public in 2009 with a change of heart.

"I was against the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage nationwide, and I still think that the American people should be able to play this out in debates," Clinton told CNN's Anderson Cooper in September 2009. "But me, Bill Clinton personally, I changed my position."

"I am no longer opposed to that," he added. "I think if people want to make commitments that last a lifetime, they ought to be able to do it."

In his op-ed, Clinton wrote that "while our laws may at times lag behind our best natures, in the end they catch up to our core values."

"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," he wrote.

- CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

Filed under: Bill Clinton • Same-sex marriage
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. MaryM

    Its about time, Bill Times are changing

    March 7, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  2. Mark

    Clinton is so spot on!

    March 7, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  3. Pete

    SCOTUS better listen to Pres.Clinton because this again is a hot topic that could come back to bite conservatives in the rear just like them voting against VAWact that finally got through for Pres.Obama today signing...Republicans keep shooting themselves in their feet no matter how many times you tell these idiots not to do it they do it anyway.Just pathedicly ignorent and just as bad because they think everyone is as stupid as them but isn't that what happens when you lie so much you start to believe in your own lies,that's republicans ,the party of NO and that's for brains and patriotism can't get much worse than that can yah!!

    March 7, 2013 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  4. California

    The Bob Woodward excuse democrats are using for him applies here? Senial, Too old ect....

    March 7, 2013 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  5. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    As a nation,we have to stay out of folks business. If you feel that two woman getting married is a sin because you say God, does not like it,then let God take care of them. After all he has a lot of power from what i hear,he does not need our help.

    March 8, 2013 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  6. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    "There is NO such thing; as... TRUTH."

    March 8, 2013 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  7. jeff

    Talk about Flip/Flop, he can't look bad if Hillary wants the votes in 2016!!!!

    March 8, 2013 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  8. JeffersonLives

    I guess he shouldn't have signed into law

    The federal government has no authority to determine marriage qualifications or benefits. How about leaving people alone to determine their how they live their own lives.

    March 8, 2013 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  9. Ancient Texan

    Obama and Holder had already decided to not enforce the law anyway....They just enforce the laws they like and the royal decrees.

    March 8, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  10. Al-NY,NY

    the tightie righties will never go for this. it's bad according to their cherry-picked words from the Bible. "Individual rights!! Individual rights!!! they scream... except in abortion and gay marriage

    March 8, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  11. Brad

    Flip Flop. Say what is popular now. Great job sign something so nasty and just times have changed. Next maybe can find a way to forgive segregation today segregation tomorrow segregation forever.

    March 8, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  12. Purplewidow

    Doma... Seriously? What about the housing bills you signed that cost Americans trillions in home values? Wanna apologize for signing that into law?

    March 8, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  13. critical thinking

    I guess we know what Hillary's position will be too. What a hypocrite.

    March 8, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  14. Ed1

    First you are for then against looks like you and Obama are true flip flops at least you agree on the same thing your both liars.

    March 8, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |