Friday, March 21, 2008

Clinton misstates wife’s DOMA position - Washington Blade

Clinton misstates wife’s DOMA position - Washington Blade

Former president speaks to student journalists
By LOU CHIBBARO JR., The Washington Blade | Mar 20, 10:17 AM

Former President Bill Clinton last week suggested his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, would support repealing the full Defense of Marriage Act, an apparent change in position from Hillary Clinton’s previous position calling for repeal of just one part of the law.

But a Hillary Clinton campaign spokesperson told the Blade that President Clinton “misspoke” in the interview. “Hillary Clinton supports only the repeal of section 3 of DOMA,” campaign spokesperson Jin Chon said.

In an interview with student journalists at Tulane University in New Orleans, which was recorded by MTV, President Clinton said, “Hillary’s position is that she doesn’t support it and if we have the votes to repeal it, she’ll be happy to repeal it.”

In previous statements and position papers, Hillary Clinton, a U.S. senator from New York, has said she favors repealing only the section of DOMA that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. That section prevents same-sex couples joined by marriage in Massachusetts or by civil unions in three other states from receiving federal benefits and rights of marriage. Hillary Clinton has said she opposed repealing the clause in DOMA allowing states to refuse to recognize gay marriages from other states.

In the MTV interview, Bill Clinton acknowledged that he and his wife were concerned that a repeal of the entire DOMA at this time would result in more states passing constitutional amendments banning gay marriage out of fear that a repeal would force them to recognize gay marriages from Massachusetts.

The following is a transcript of Bill Clinton’s DOMA remarks:

Q: The gay community has traditionally been a huge base of support for the Democratic Party. But recently Melissa Etheridge accused you of throwing the gay community under a bus. And I think that she was referring to the fact that in 1996 you signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriage. Given that my home state of Massachusetts has legalized gay marriage, in the interim period I wanted to know what your position on same-sex marriage is today and how you would hope the---

Clinton: Well, I think it is a slight re-writing of history. Let me just say, let me remind you that one of the reasons that the Republican Party used to get its base out — I think it was in 2004 — was to have all these amendments on the ballot to change the constitution of these states to ban gay marriage.

There wasn’t the time for a serious effort to argue that the Congress ought to present to the states a national constitutional amendment on gay marriage. So the idea behind the Defense of Marriage Act was not to ban gay marriage but just simply to say that just because Massachusetts recognized gay marriage that they — Hillary and I at the time defended their right to do — that marriage had always been a matter of state law and religious practice. The Defense of Marriage Act did nothing to change that. All it said was that Idaho did not have to recognize a marriage sanctified in Massachusetts.

And that seemed to be a reasonable compromise in the environment of the time. And it’s a slight rewriting of history on the part of Melissa, who I very much respect, to imply that somehow this was anti-gay when I had more openly gay people in my administration and did more for gay rights and tried to provide an opportunity for gays to serve in the military and did provide an opportunity for gays to serve in civilian positions involving national securities that they previously had been denied from serving in. That’s a little bit of rewriting history.

Q: Even if it’s a rewriting of history, what is your position in 2008, given that people see this as an equal opportunity problem at the federal level, not just at the state level.

Clinton: The important thing is what’s Hillary’s position. Hillary’s position is that she doesn’t support it and if we have the votes to repeal it she’ll be happy to repeal it. But let me ask you this. Do you believe there will be more or fewer efforts to ban gay marriage constitutionally around the country if a Massachusetts marriage has to be sanctified in Utah? Yes or no. Answer the question. We live in the real world here.

Q: It’s a political backlash, I know —

Clinton: No, not a political backlash. It’s a substantive backlash. The lives of gay people — will there be more or fewer gay couples free of harassment if the law is that every gay couple in America could go to Massachusetts and then have to be recognized in Utah?

Q: But when is that going to change if you’re not willing to set a firm stand —

Clinton: So you don’t care what the practical implications are?

Q: No, I’m not saying there aren’t pragmatic concerns —

Clinton: What I’m saying is — I’ll tell you what Hillary’s position is. What Hillary’s position is she’s opposed to it and she also believes that — she’s also opposed to the ban on gays serving in the military.

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