Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sorry, Bernie: DOMA Really Was a Defensive Action Against a Possible Constitutional Amendment

Last Friday in an interview with Rachel Maddow, Hillary Clinton was asked about the Defense of Marriage Act which was signed by her husband in 1996. Her answer may have come as a surprise to some:
CLINTON: 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 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.
And it didn't take very long for another candidate to smell blood in the water.

At his Iowa JJ dinner speech the next day, Bernie Sanders pointedly proclaimed that "some are trying to rewrite history" on this issue, and on Monday went even further during his own interview on Maddow's show by directly accusing Hillary of saying something that "wasn't true".

Going deeper into negative territory, Sanders also made a point to read this tweet from a longtime Clinton supporter word for word:
That's fine of course, but if Bernie gets to quote a tweet by 1990s RIAA lobbyist Hilary Rosen then so can I:
Anyway, could it really be that Hillary Clinton is suddenly rewriting the history of DOMA to make herself and her husband look better for this campaign?

The answer is no...and there's proof.

Bill Clinton agonized about his decision for years, and in a March 2013 Washington Post op-ed entitled "It's Time to Overturn DOMA" he wrote:
In 1996, I signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Although that was only 17 years ago, it was a very different time. In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian. As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that 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.” It was under these circumstances that DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress.
Sure enough, there is indeed a March 1st 2013 Supreme Court amicus brief from former Democratic Senators Bill Bradley, Tom Daschle and Chris Dodd, as well as former Republican Senator Alan Simpson. There's some good overall background on DOMA from their perspective as 1996 lawmakers if you feel like reading the whole thing, but here is the relevant section:
The statute enjoyed broad bipartisan support, but the reasons for that support varied widely. Some supported DOMA even while staunchly opposing discrimination against gays in employment, adoption, military service, and other spheres. Some believed that DOMA was necessary to allay fears that a single state’s recognition of same-sex marriage could automatically extend to all other states through the Full Faith and Credit Clause. And they believed that enacting DOMA would eliminate the possibility of a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage—an outcome that would have terminated any further debate about same-sex marriage, potentially for generations. At the same time, even for many who generally opposed sexual orientation discrimination, the traditional conception of marriage was so engrained that it was difficult to see the true nature of the discrimination DOMA wrought. 
The way I see it, there are only a couple of possibilities here.

Either the Clintons were able to convince a bipartisan group of former U.S. Senators to lie to the Supreme Court in early 2013 so Hillary could have a better answer two-and-a-half years later about why her husband signed DOMA nearly twenty years earlier...

...or maybe, just maybe...Hillary is telling the truth.


  1. It's too bad that Rachel Maddow didn't do her homework when she interviewed Sanders on Monday night.

    1. I too thought it was weird to let Bernie "set the record straight on this" without any evidence that Hillary may have actually been speaking some truth about DOMA deliberations.

  2. BRAVO! I've been sharing this (see below) everywhere I saw the DOMA lie being discussed...
    Bill Clinton wrote in 2013:
    As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that 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.”

    1. Yep, Hillary wasn't saying anything new.

  3. Of course, the willingness of Clinton supporters to pretend that their anti-gay actions were not REALLY anti-gay is why DOMA passed in the first place. We get it. You don't care any more about the rights of gay people that Bill did when he signed DOMA. You want Hillary's lies because they make you feel better about your own bigotry. Jiust understand that some gay people see underneath the pretense and hate you right back.

    1. Well, I certainly feel a lot of hate in this comment about my fact-based piece. You really think those four Senators were lying to the Supreme Court in 2013?

      PS: Clinton took a stand for gay rights by starting his presidency with a controversial attempt to remove the ban on gays in the military. It was a disaster and he only got a crappy compromise, but at least he tried.

  4. Most of these tv interviews are conducted in a way to increase viewer ratings. Just like the shambles of the last Republican debate where the format backfired on the moderators. I wish people would do a little research on what happened when so they would not make ill-formed statements. Hopefully that would diffuse some of the 'hate' statements.