President Bill Clinton: It’s time to overturn DOMA

On Friday, President Bill Clinton joined the chorus of voices calling on the Supreme Court to overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal respect for marriages between same-sex couples. In an editorial for The Washington Post, President Clinton expressed his understanding that signing the legislation was a mistake, explaining, "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 acknowledged his mistake and regret for approving DOMA in 1996. He wrote:

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.

Freedom to Marry Founder and President Evan Wolfson applauded President Clinton's Op-ed, saying:

In a very different era, Bill Clinton signed discrimination into law. Today, he adds his voice to the who's who of America saying that the time has come to overturn that discriminatory law. His journey is the journey a majority of Americans have made in understanding that marriage discrimination has no place in our country or under our Constitution. 

President Clinton's editorial adds one more voice to the chorus of diverse groups urging the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA in 2013. The Court will hear oral arguments in Windsor v. United States, which challenges Section 3 of DOMA, the section that restricts marriage to different-sex couples, on March 27, 2013. A ruling is expected by June 2013. In the past few months, dozens of groups have expressed their desire for the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA - including the Obama administration, 212 Democratic members of the House and Senate, 300 businesses and corporations, nearly 100 prominent Republican leaders, LGBT organizations, civil rights groups, attorneys general from 15 states, religious organizations, and mental health groups. Check out a round-up of groups that filed amicus briefs in the DOMA and Proposition 8 challenges last week.  

Read the entire editorial HERE, and learn more about the marriage cases at the Supreme Court HERE.