Clinton asks justices to overturn law he signed

March 8, 2013

It’s not every day that an ex-president asks the Supreme Court to strike down a law he signed.

That’s what Bill Clinton did with the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman—and which the high court will rule on this year in a landmark moment for the gay marriage movement.

The justices must decide whether the Defense of Marriage Act “is consistent with the principles of a nation that honors freedom, equality and justice above all, and is therefore constitutional,” Clinton wrote in the Washington Post. He adds: “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.”

Clinton says that when he signed the law in 1996, “it was a very different time.” No state then recognized same-sex marriage, but some were considering it—and congressional opponents were proposing “quite draconian” responses, the 42nd president writes.

“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,’” Clinton states.

Now nine states and the District of Columbia sanction gay marriage, but same-sex couples even there are denied rights available to others, Clinton notes; they “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.”

The Supreme Court decision is expected in late June.  —USA Today

This article was edited on March 21, 2013.