Bill Clinton: It’s time to overturn DOMA

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Former president Bill Clinton has a guest opinion in the Washington Post today, It’s time to overturn DOMA:

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.

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. 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.

Because Section 3 of the act defines marriage as being between a man
and a woman, same-sex couples who are legally married in nine states and
the District of Columbia are denied the benefits of more than a
thousand federal statutes and programs available to other married
couples. Among other things, these couples cannot file their taxes
jointly, take unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured spouse or
receive equal family health and pension benefits as federal civilian
employees. Yet they pay taxes, contribute to their communities and, like
all couples, aspire to live in committed, loving relationships,
recognized and respected by our laws.

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.

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.

Americans have been at this sort of a crossroads often
enough to recognize the right path. We understand that, while our laws
may at times lag behind our best natures, in the end they catch up to
our core values. One hundred fifty years ago, in the midst of the Civil
War, President Abraham Lincoln concluded a message to Congress by posing
the very question we face today: “It is not ‘Can any of us imagine
better?’ but ‘Can we all do better?’ ”

The answer is of course and always yes. In that spirit, 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.

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