In a Washington Post op-ed, Bill Clinton argues that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which he signed into law, is unconstitutional. This raises an obvious question: Why did Clinton sign an unconstitutional piece of legislation into law?
As slick as he is, Clinton can’t provide an answer. He does explain why he signed DOMA in 1996:
This reminds me of a cartoon of Clinton, probably when he was president, showing a band marching down one fork in a road while Clinton, formerly ahead of the band, goes down the other fork. He turns around and sees they're going in another direction. So he runs across country to get in front of the band.[At that 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.Clinton appears to be saying that he signed DOMA to head-off a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. But that’s no excuse for signing unconstitutional legislation. After all, Clinton took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Unfortunately, oaths have never had much meaning for Clinton.
Clinton also says “I know now that the law is discriminatory.” But he also must know that not all “discriminatory” laws are unconstitutional.
Moreover, DOMA’s potential for “discrimination” was apparent when Clinton signed it. At that time, as he acknowledges, some states were moving towards legalizing same-sex marriage. DOMA meant that same-sex couples who married in these states would not have certain federal benefits available to other married couples. Yet Clinton signed DOMA into law.
I wonder what Bill Clinton hoped to accomplish through an op-ed in which he admits to another act of cynicism and lawlessness. Does he think that one or more of the five Supreme Court Justices who may be inclined to uphold DOMA will be moved by this op-ed to switch on the issue?
I doubt it. More likely, the judge Clinton has in mind is History. That arbiter already has him pegged as lawless cynic anyway. So why not try to explain away his endorsement of DOMA, and get on what he assumes eventually will be the prevailing side by hopping abroad the gay marriage express before it arrives at the station?