Two days after former President Bill Clinton wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post lamenting his decision to sign the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, readers are responding to his cry, wondering whether this about-face is enough to undo damage and rally support for overturning the measure.
Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, during what he called, “a very different time,” in America. In the op-ed, he renounced this decision by declaring his support for the Obama Administration and Edith Windsor of the United States v. Windsor case, an appealed Supreme Court case challenging the act’s constitutionality.
But the effectiveness of Clinton’s pleas has been called into question. Sunnivie Brydum of The Advocate found that certain justifications and real apologies were “notably absent” from the article.
Michelangelo Signorile of the Huffington Post writes that Clinton’s well-intentioned argument still, “doesn’t remove this damaging act from [his] legacy.” Signorile also stated that the president remained mum about marriage equality because throughout his two terms, “[Clinton] was deathly afraid of the gay issue and would not be a leader on it.”
Former White House Senior Adviser Richard Socarides reflected on the administration’s concerns about vetoing DOMA and its potentially negative effect on reelection. He said, “[It] became clear that the President’s chief political advisers were not willing to take any chances.”
But despite this and the enactment of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ in 1993, Socarides writes that Clinton has nonetheless showed support for the LGBT community from the beginning. During the 1992 election, he became the first presidential candidate to speak at a campaign event specifically for gay and lesbian voters. And in 1999, he pioneered for the enactment of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would later become the first federal law protecting the rights of transgender people.
DOMA is a federal law that currently defines marriage as a legal joining strictly of a man and a woman, and mandates that only those in such unions are qualified for entitlements like joint taxes, family health programs, and pension benefits for government employees. It will undergo review by the Supreme Court on March 7 as an extension of the United States v. Windsor case.