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

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  •  I suspect that signing the POS bill (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CajunBoyLgb, skrekk

    was heartache enough.  But it fended off a constitutional amendment.

    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 09:00:16 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  See Mixner, above. (4+ / 0-)

      He insists it wasn't a real threat until the Aughts.

      And Clinton made clear back then that he opposed same-sex marriage, period.

      •  That was far and away the most common position (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CajunBoyLgb, Jay C, JGibson, ffour, skrekk

        at the time, including among Democrats and progressives.  Howard Dean still opposed it eight years later.

        A constitutional Marriage Amendment was a real threat at the time.  All it had to do was get 2/3 of Congress.  After that, it was just a matter of time before it would -- like the 27th Amendment -- be able to sneak through enough state Legislatures over the course of however long it took to be ratified.  It was not going to pass right away, perhaps, but sending an amendment to the states was crossing the Rubicon.  It had to be stopped by whatever legal means.  DOMA did so.

        You would have been, I think, in our perhaps just out of law school at that time, but I have a feeling that many of the people in this discussion simply have no idea whatsoever of what the political climate was then -- a climate that Clinton himself had triggered when he took a progressive stance on allowing gays into the military even before his inauguration and got absolutely stomped by press and politicians alike, which is what led to DADT.  They were different times.

        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 09:15:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No one was talking amendment in 1996, though. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CajunBoyLgb, Jay C, cloudbustingkid

          All there was was the threat of the Hawaii ruling.

          I agree that these were different times, and marriage equality was not on the positive agenda then.  I'm just unwilling to buy your "short circuit" theory when I can't find contemporary evidence of it.  Politicians, including Dems, were just completely happy then to say that marriage was a heterosexual institution, period.

          •  Holy shit, Adam (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jay C, skrekk, CajunBoyLgb

            Yes, people were talking about a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman in 1996.  YES, they were.  I remember it.  But don't rely on your memory, rely on your knowledge of politics.  Do you really think that the religious groups and demagogues and bigots would not have proposed such an amendment at the time to make political hay?  This at a time when they were feeling their oats so strongly after the Gingrich Revolution?

            Why wouldn't they have done so -- if for no other reason than to boost fundraising?  Is your theory that they did not realize that amending the Constitution in this respect was possible?  That they didn't realize that it was more permanent?  That they didn't realize that the public was so strongly behind them that they had a really good chance of making it happen?

            I'd suggest that you take the time seek out some Senators serving at the time to see if they thought that that was what was going on, but you don't have to expend that energy -- because they just filed a fucking amicus brief!

            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 09:41:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The brief covers their asses. (4+ / 0-)

              To cover the shift in attitudes from 1996 until now.  

              And here's a simple, verified fact: dozens of constitutional amendments are introduced in Congress, every year, destined to go nowhere.   The first Federal Marriage Amendment was not introduced until 2002.  

              For all of your "why not do it, to boost fundraising?", well, they didn't. And why not? Because the Hawaii litigation which animated DOMA was short-circuited by a state constitutional amendment, and the issue was no longer a live one. Look at when the other state constitutional bans were implemented -- this just wasn't part of the policy agenda in 1996.

              •  I'll grant you that no FMA was introduced (0+ / 0-)

                in Congress until 2002.  "Not part of their policy agenda" does not follow.

                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 10:27:44 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  They had a presidential primary process in 1995-96 (0+ / 0-)

                  Did any of them -- Dole, Lamar!, Keyes, Forbes, Gramm, etc. -- advocate for a constitutional amendment while trying to excite their base while running for President?

                  •  I don't rightly know (0+ / 0-)

                    Normally, such an amendment would arise after the failure of the legislative process.  My argument is that the Dems knew that such a proposed amendment would be coming if DOMA passed, not that one was then on the table.

                    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 10:45:34 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  The whole 1995-96 primary process... (0+ / 0-)

                      ... concluded before DOMA became law.

                      •  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 ]

            •  Minor point, SD (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              CajunBoyLgb

              The 27th Amendment was indeed, finally ratified in 1992 after being under consideration by the states for 203 years: but A27 had originally been submitted and passed (in 1789), without a specified time-limit for its ratification. Which was normal in times past: but nowadays, (as with the late lamented ERA of the 1970's) , I believe it is has been usual to put a "sunset" date on proposed Amendments.

               I'm not sure (i.e., don't remember) what may have been proposed for the putative Marriage Amendment in the mid-90s, but I think that you are quite right to point out that the last thing the country needed/needs is a still-"live" discriminatory Constitutional Amendment floating around state legislatures. Would you trust your State Lege to adequately safeguard LGBT citizens' basic rights? On their own?

              DOMA is a Federal law: it can be modified or repealed as times/opinions change, or knocked down by the courts: a Constitutional Amendment - not so much...

              •  It's not at all settled that such a time limit (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jay C

                would have effect.  (The same is true of whether repeal of a state's former approval would have effect.)  This has come up in the context of the Equal Rights Amendment.  And no, I would not trust any state's legislature to be eternally vigilant against a Federal Marriage Amendment.  Weird wave elections 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 10:26:53 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think there was much heartache for him (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CajunBoyLgb, txvoodoo, vernonbc

      He sure did milk it for all the political value it was worth. That doesn't sound like heartache to me.

      And call me cynical, but I really doubt he was all that concerned that a constitutional amendment might pass. That's a really easy argument for him to make now--oh, he was just being strategic and minimizing damage to the gay community. I highly doubt it.

      Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

      by Chrislove on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 09:19:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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