Skip to main content

View Diary: Bill Clinton, signer of DOMA, says it's 'incompatible with our Constitution' (127 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  And DOMA itself wasn't filed until May 7, 1996 (0+ / 0-)

    At that point, the question was posed of what happened if it passed -- and of what happened if it didn't.  Of course, Clinton signed it in to law on Sept. 21, 1996, about seven weeks before the election.  Do you think that maybe he was thinking about whether a last-ditch, ineffectual stand on behalf of a then-despised minority, reminding people of his attempts to integrate gays and lesbians into the military (which had blown up in his face in 1993) may have influenced that?

    Plaintiffs' Employment Law Attorney (harassment, discrimination, retaliation, whistleblowing, wage & hour, &c.) in North Orange County, CA.

    "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back."
    -- Saul Alinsky

    by Seneca Doane on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 11:58:16 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Of course. (0+ / 0-)

      It's a much more credible argument than your "short circuit" theory. Socarides today:

      Inside the White House, there was a genuine belief that if the President vetoed the Defense of Marriage Act, his reëlection could be in jeopardy. There was a heated debate about whether this was a realistic assessment, but it became clear that the President’s chief political advisers were not willing to take any chances. Some in the White House pointed out that DOMA, once enacted, would have no immediate practical effect on anyone—there were no state-sanctioned same-sex marriages then for the federal government to ignore. I remember a Presidential adviser saying that he was not about to risk a second term on a veto, however noble, that wouldn’t change a single thing nor make a single person’s life better....

      During the campaign season, Clinton would sometimes complain publicly about how the Republicans were using the marriage issue against him. He said, derisively, that it was “hardly a problem that is sweeping the country” and his press secretary called it “gay baiting, pure and simple.” And that September, when the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, President Clinton signed it. There are no pictures of this occasion—no pens that were saved. My advice to the people who arranged for these things was to get it done and out of the way as quickly as possible; he signed it late at night one evening after returning from a day-long campaign trip.

      The Defense of Marriage Act became law, and President Clinton was reëlected, again with overwhelming support from gay Americans. He was enthusiastically endorsed by the nation’s leading gay political group, the Human Rights Campaign, which had urged him to veto the legislation. They had called DOMA “a Bob Dole for President publicity stunt.” (There was a small dustup during the later stages of the campaign when a Clinton-related committee ran a radio ad in the South, heralding the enactment of the legislation. The ad was quickly pulled.)

      Was it realistic to think that a Presidential veto of DOMA would have put Clinton’s reëlection in jeopardy? At the time I thought not. But in 1996 less than thirty per cent of Americans supported gay marriage, and even eight years after that, in 2004, President George W. Bush used gay marriage extremely effectively as a wedge issue against John Kerry, who at the time only supported civil unions. In fact, many believe that it was the Bush campaign’s very strategic placement of anti-gay-marriage state constitutional ballot initiatives throughout moderate and conservative leaning states (like Ohio) which brought out conservative Bush voters and carried the day for him in that election. Could similar tactics have been used with the same effectiveness in 1996? Obviously, we will never know.

      Had there been a President Dole, none of the advances President Clinton accomplished in his second term for gay equality would have been possible....

      •  Clinton's signing vs. vetoing meant nothing (0+ / 0-)

        regarding the ultimate fate of the bill.  As I noted: only 67 Nay votes (to 342 Yeas) in the House in July and 15 in the Senate (up against 85) just under two months before the election.  An override (which as I recall would have been Clinton's first) would have done nothing good (other than as a symbolic stance) and would have potentially endangered his re-election -- which among other things would have deterred other such symbolic stances.

        The question in my mind is what made DOMA into a juggernaut before it passed the House on July 12 and the Senate on Sept. 10, 1996.  For one thing, as the rapid pace and the final results showed, it was a juggernaut, a rout.  Popular opinion was strongly behind it.  Proponents would have easily had 2/3 to override a veto.  Would you have really wanted to take the chance that they could also get 2/3 to amend the Constitution -- just before a Presidential election -- possibly resuscitating the moribund Dole campaign by giving him a hot-button issue?  Sure, the Republicans were playing politics -- and sending a Constitutional Amendment to the states if need be was an obvious next move.

        Your position suggests that either this didn't occur to them, or they wouldn't dare have tried (despite it being a potential lifeline for Dole), or that they wouldn't have succeeded if they had tried.  I suggest that each of these is highly doubtful.  Could the Democrats (and remember, Clinton would have had no veto over a constitutional amendment) have stood on principle that "yes, this may be a good idea for a law, which we just blocked, but we still don't need to send this to the states for a constitutional amendment"?  I think that that question answers itself.

        The Republicans were in a far superior position politically on this issue and that meant that they would have had every political reason to try to push through a constitutional amendment had DOMA failed.  Dems knew this.  I'm sorry that the Internet was not well-enough developed at the time to facilitate my presenting evidence beyond my own memories of conversations at that time.

        Plaintiffs' Employment Law Attorney (harassment, discrimination, retaliation, whistleblowing, wage & hour, &c.) in North Orange County, CA.

        "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back."
        -- Saul Alinsky

        by Seneca Doane on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 12:31:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site