Clinton quotes an amicus brief from a group of former senators arguing that the hope at the time was that DOMA "would defuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more." And citing the benefits of marriage denied same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, he continues:
When I signed the bill, I included a statement with the admonition that “enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.” Reading those words today, I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory. It should be overturned.It doesn't take a legal expert or a judge or a former president to tell us what we know: The Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory. But to have the president whose signature is on the law saying that he believes it is not only discriminatory but unconstitutionally so puts some weight behind that knowledge, and provides another reminder of how far we've come so quickly.
We are still a young country, and many of our landmark civil rights decisions are fresh enough that the voices of their champions still echo, even as the world that preceded them becomes less and less familiar. We have yet to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, but a society that denied women the vote would seem to us now not unusual or old-fashioned but alien. I believe that in 2013 DOMA and opposition to marriage equality are vestiges of just such an unfamiliar society.