by Chris Bodenner
A blogger takes a stand:
[Bill Clinton] talked about a new progressive era and how America has changed. [...] So, at the point that he said, "We need an honest, principled debate", I knew I had to try to stimulate the discussion. So, I stood and said, "Mr. President, will you call for a repeal of DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Right now?"
The immediate response shocked me at the time and still does. Those surrounding me yelled at me, booed, and told me to sit down. One elderly lady even told me to leave. While I was among the supposed most progressive audience in the country, they sought to silence someone asking a former President to speak out on behalf of repealing two laws that TOOK AWAY RIGHTS OF A MINORITY. I was shocked. [...] I'll let you judge for yourselves the reaction of the audience (I especially LOVE the "I love you Bill!!!" while justifying DADT.)
Bill's complete answer is here. His DOMA response is after the jump:
Let me just say one thing about DOMA, since you -- the reason I signed DOMA was -- and I said when I signed it -- that I thought the question of whether gays should marry should be left up to states and to religious organizations, and if any church or other religious body wanted to recognize gay marriage, they ought to. We were attempting at the time, in a very reactionary Congress, to head off an attempt to send a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the states. And if you look at the 11 referenda much later -- in 2004, in the election -- which the Republicans put on the ballot to try to get the base vote for President Bush up, I think it's obvious that something had to be done to try to keep the Republican Congress from presenting that. The President doesn't even get to veto that. The Congress can refer constitutional amendments to the states.
I didn't like signing DOMA and I certainly didn't like the constraints that were put on benefits, and I've done everything I could -- and I am proud to say that the State Department was the first federal department to restore benefits to gay partners in the Obama administration, and I think we are going forward in the right direction now for federal employees.
Andrew had this to say after Clinton got a similar question from a young reporter last year:
The facts are these: under Bill Clinton the rate of discharges of gay people from the military doubled; under Bill Clinton, the Defense Of Marriage Act did not only simply enshrine the pre-existing right of some states not to recognize the civil marriages of other states - as he misleadingly states - but barred all of us gay couples from any rights on a federal level; Bill Clinton cited the Defense of Marriage Act in re-election campaign ads in the South.
Even now, he claims that repealing DOMA would lead to more persecution of gays, because more states would allegedly pass anti-gay constitutional amendments. But there are very very few left that could do more to stigmatize gay couples than currently do. And he still resists any defense of gay equality in substance seeing it entirely, as he did in office, as a matter of partisan positioning. Just as he left any mention of any gay people and any gay appointees out of his interminable autobiography, he still will not stand up for gay equality when confronted by the next generation.
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