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

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  •  Me either (23+ / 0-)

    The unconstitutionality of DOMA should have been obvious to anybody at the time it was passed; I suppose that we should be thankful that Clinton finally acknowledges that 17 years later, after helping to perpetuate discrimination at the Federal level all that time.  It doesn't really matter that he thought his veto would have been overridden -- that's not an excuse to participate in the discrimination.

    Wake me up when he apologizes for signing Gramm-Leach-Bliley.  That'd be an announcement worth hearing.  I'm not holding my breath, though.

    Citizens United defeated by citizens, united.

    by Dallasdoc on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 06:54:08 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  no way in Hell (6+ / 0-)
      It doesn't really matter that he thought his veto would have been overridden
      he was that stupid.

      In fact, he's demonstrated that he's not stupid at all.  That leaves only one other interpretation, which is, well, less kind.

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 07:03:27 AM PST

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    •  Or for so-called welfare quote/unquote (7+ / 0-)

      "reform."

    •  In fact knowing your veto will be overridden (7+ / 0-)

      would create a badge of honor when LATER you are proven correct.

      For the same reasons, he should have vetoed repeal of Glass Steagall and the Commodities Trading Modernization Act.

      The Republicans would've overridden his veto, and would then own ALL THE BLAME for subsequent disasters.

      I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever. ~Thomas Jefferson

      by bobdevo on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 08:27:57 AM PST

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      •  "The Republicans would've overridden his veto..." (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CajunBoyLgb, yaque, Adam B

        .....and used that symbolic veto as a wedge to help Bob Dole win the 1996 election.    That was the real reason for DOMA.

        That's the reality of politics - signing crappy and harmful bills in the middle of night to avoid a political issue.   The other reality is that no one was directly impacted by that bill until 8 years after it was signed, when MA achieved marriage equality.

        And there's a larger reality too: bigoted laws like DOMA have actually moved the legal issues further and faster than anyone could have imagined.    Without DOMA & the mini-DOMAs and the naked anti-gay animus they exhibit in their legislative records (and of course Romer and Lawrence), the Baker v Nelson precedent would still be relevant for years to come and the issue of heightened scrutiny wouldn't be before the court today.    The civil rights victory which is about to happen won't be just about marriage equality, but about all laws which discriminate based on sexual orientation.

        •  Yeah, Right, Bob Dole ROTFL. You gotta do (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dallasdoc, txvoodoo

          better than that when it comes to Bogeymen.

          Jesus . . . Bob Dole . . . I'm still laughin' . . .

          I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever. ~Thomas Jefferson

          by bobdevo on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 11:20:20 AM PST

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          •  Have you ever looked at the electoral results (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            toddsmitts

            for 1996?    Many bible-belt states which are usually reliable red states went for Clinton - including Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri, West Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee.    A few of those states were only won by a point or two.  DOMA was very much an issue in those states and Clinton campaigned in the south partly on that issue.

            Arkansas and maybe Tennessee can be excused for going Dem that year, but note that Gore lost Tennessee the next time.

    •  I've made this observation here several times (6+ / 0-)
      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 it's nice to see some corroboration.  That DOMA was "unconstitutional" was not the problem.  DOMA came into being  -- not the proposal itself, but its adoption by people who were not out to suppress gays -- in order to fend off what would have been a catastrophic constitutional amendment that would achieve the same end as this more easily repealed legislation.

      How catastrophic would such an amendment have been?  Though this dealt specifically with marriage, it would have enshrined the principle that the nation could discriminate against GLBTs into the Constitution itself, rendering moot all of the debate we're having now about the constitutionality of Prop 8 and more.  The "penumbra" of such an amendment would have been used to justify "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and countless other horrors, and we'd have never gotten 3/4 of the states to undo it.

      DOMA was like a tourniquet or a tracheotomy.  Normally, we frown on cutting off blood flow to extremities or slicing through people's necks.  Occasionally, in dire circumstances, it's necessary.  The country was crazed with anti-gay sentiment back in the mid-90s; DOMA settled that down in a way that, sooner or later, could be undone.  The progress we've made since then, perversely, is in part thanks to DOMA.  It got it past a situation where the country could easily been enacted -- easily because I think that a "Defense of Marriage Amendment" had a good chance of being passed (the President has no veto power over a proposed amendment) and ratified.

      Clinton made some terrible compromises to win his second term in office, particularly in welfare reform and immigration policy.  But regarding DOMA, he literally saved the cause of GLBT rights from a permanent fatal blow.  By keeping it out of the Constitution, he made today's victories possible.  He doesn't get primary credit -- the GLBT movement itself gets that.  But his action was essential.

      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 08:58:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Find anyone who was saying this at the time ... (5+ / 0-)

        ... as opposed to this being an ex post justification for political cowardice.  That brief itself is pure ipse dixit, no citation to the historical record:

        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 1996 Senate hearing report is online. You won't find this argument there either.
        •  Send me your NEXIS password (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jay C, CajunBoyLgb

          and I'll find you discussions at the time.  It was considered to be a necessary sop to the sensibilities of the majority.  True, at the time, domestic partnership was considered to be an acceptable position as opposed to true marriage equality because at that point the focus was on eliminating material injury as opposed to dignitary injury.  (Of course there still is material injury to GLBTs, but much of the current debate -- which, for example, would rule out federal imposition of domestic partnership legislation as an alternative to real marriage -- is based on dignitary harm.  That is not to downplay it; dignitary harm is important.  It's just generally considered to be less pressing than material harm, such as "you can't inherit and you can't visit your life partner when they are dying in the hospital.")

          "We're trying to stave off the public appetite for discrimination against this hated minority until it cools down by passing a bill that will allow us to kick the can down the road in the hope that public attitudes may change" wasn't in the Senate Report?  Do tell!  Whyever not?

          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 09:35:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I've searched the NYT database and found nothing. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            CajunBoyLgb, Jay C, cloudbustingkid

            A federal marriage amendment didn't become a live issue until Massachusetts ruled in Goodridge in 2003.

            This is an easier question to answer: even beyond whether any Senators were trying to head off a FMA in 1996, find evidence that conservatives were trying to advance one that soon.  The 1996 GOP Platform didn't.

            •  The first one was introduced in Congress in 2002 (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              CajunBoyLgb, Jay C

              as reported here:

              Groups opposing the measure call it "bigoted," and say it targets gay and lesbian couples for discrimination. Opponents also claim that the amendment is being used as a political weapon during a mid-term election cycle that otherwise has few distinctions to it. They vow to fight it.

              "This amendment is the legal equivalent of the nuclear bomb," said Chris Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It would wipe out every last protection there is for gay and lesbian families and other unmarried couples."

              "The U.S. Constitution is a revered document and it should not be used for cynical election-year posturing," said David Smith, communications director of the Human Rights Campaign.

              Why not 6-7 years earlier?  Because DOMA passed and that took the wind out of the sails of any such efforts, which were thought to be unnecessary.

              Yes, this did arise over the Full Faith & Credit concerns after the initial Hawaii Court decision -- which GLBT groups celebrated at the time for the possibility that it would impose the obligation on all states to accept same-sex marriage outright.  This was so far out ahead of public opinion that it was shut down very quickly by Democrats, because of the concerns about both the 1996 election (remember, this came just after the 1994 slaughter) and the prospect of a constitutional amendment.  (For historical perspective, Ellen DeGeneres did not come out on TV until 1997.)

              I know this because I remember the prospect of such an amendment being discussed in Democratic circles at the time.  (If anyone has free NEXUS access out there, perhaps they can search for stories in the period between the Hawaii decision and the enactment of DOMA.)

              Here's a 1989 NYT story that I think is worth reviewing.  Note FRC's Gary Bauer's declaration therein:

              In the meantime, opponents of homosexual marriage are preparing for a fight. ''We do see this as a major battleground in the 1990's,'' said Gary L. Bauer, who was President Reagan's domestic affairs adviser and who now heads the Family Research Council in Washington. Same-sex marriage ''would undermine deeply held and broadly accepted ideas of normalcy,'' Mr. Bauer said. ''We have customs against such things because it has been the consensus of 2,000 years of Western civilization that such arrangements were to be discouraged.''
              Logically, given this, what do you think are the odds that the next 6-1/2 years (preceding Bob Barr's introducing DOMA in May 1996) no one among the conservative opposition broached the idea of an amendment to preclude same-sex marriage?  That oversight would be uncharacteristically unopportunistic of them, wouldn't you think?

              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 10:14:01 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  The Class of 1994 (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                CajunBoyLgb

                Why didn't any of them introduce an amendment, just for show? And those people were nuts.

                I'm not going to dispute that DOMA may have deflated the need for an FMA, but that's not the same as arguing that Democrats back in 1996 foresaw that this would take place, and that it motivated them to support DOMA.  (Especially when it would have passed without many of them anyway.)

                •  They didn't because there was no need to do so (0+ / 0-)

                  As you note, the Hawaii decision went away.  DOMA passed.  Do you think that, had DOMA failed, no one would have had the bright idea of introducing a Constitutional Amendment to get past the recalcitrant Congress?  Even Louie Gohmert would have been smart enough to do that.

                  DOMA was intended to settle the issue with legislation.  I absolutely do remember "... and live to fight another day" discussions at the time -- and it didn't take a genius to know what the potential downside was if it failed.

                  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 10:31:46 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Only 15 Senators voted no, by the way: (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  skrekk

                  Akaka (D-HI), Boxer (D-CA), Feingold (D-WI), Feinstein (D-CA), Inouye (D-HI), Kennedy (D-MA), Kerrey (D-NE), Kerry (D-MA), Moseley-Braun (D-IL), Moynihan (D-NY), Pell (D-RI), Robb (D-VA), Simon (D-IL), Wyden (D-OR)

                  Still Clinton's shameful fault?

                  In the House only 66 Dems and 1 (out and gay) Republican voted no, overwhelmingly from California, New York, Massachusetts and a few urban districts -- essentially, one where a "yes" vote would have caused political trouble:

                  Abercrombie, Ackerman, Becerra, Beilenson, Berman, Brown (CA), Brown (OH), Collins (MI), Conyers, Coyne, DeFazio, Dellums, Dixon, Engel, Eshoo, Farr, Fattah, Foglietta, Frank (MA), Gejdenson, Gunderson, Gutierrez, Harman, Hastings (FL), Hinchey, Jackson (IL), Kennedy (MA), Kennedy (RI), Lantos, Lewis (GA), Lofgren, Maloney, Markey, Martinez, Matsui, McDermott, McKinney, Meek, Millender-McDonald, Miller (CA), Mink, Moran, Nadler, Olver, Pallone, Payne (NJ), Pelosi, Rangel, Rivers, Roybal-Allard, Sabo, Sanders, Schroeder, Scott, Serrano, Skaggs, Slaughter, Stark, Stokes, Studds, Torres, Towns, Velazquez, Waters, Waxman, Williams, Woolsey
                  Clinton could have vetoed it and let it be overridden, though.  That would have helped a lot.  Bob Dole was no doubt rooting for that to happen.

                  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 10:42:40 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

        •  We do know what Richard Socarides says about the (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Adam B, CajunBoyLgb, Seneca Doane

          reasons for signing DOMA, and he was there at the time:

          http://www.newyorker.com/...

          .....Inside the White House, there was a genuine belief that if the President vetoed the Defense of Marriage Act, his reelection 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.

          What we didn’t fully comprehend was that, sooner than anyone imagined, there would be thousands of families who would be harmed by DOMA—denied federal benefits, recognition, and security, or kept apart by immigration laws.

          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......

      •  Evan Wolfson disagrees. Strongly. (0+ / 0-)

        Geidner, MetroWeekly, 2011:

        Daschle's argument — that DOMA was stopping something worse — doesn't fit with the recollections of most LGBT advocates engaged in the debate at the time. Evan Wolfson, who was then running the National Freedom to Marry Coalition while a lawyer at Lambda Legal, says, ''That's complete nonsense. There was no conversation about something 'worse' until eight years later. There was no talk of a constitutional amendment, and no one even thought it was possible — and, of course, it turned out it wasn't really possible to happen.

        ''So, the idea that people were swallowing DOMA in order to prevent a constitutional amendment is really just historic revisionism and not true. That was never an argument made in the '90s.''

        •  I *took part in* such conversations in Pittsburgh (0+ / 0-)

          that summer.  It may not have permeated into Lambda Legal, but it sure was a topic of discussion among Democrats, as I recall in the context of how much to pressure our no-portrait-of-liberal-courage Representative Michael Coyne (who did end up voting no -- along with, if a cursory look at the list shows, exactly no one else from Pennsylvania other than Chaka Fattah.  If you want to know why Dems voted for it, you may still have plenty of people nearby whom you could ask.)

          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 12:42:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

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