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Saturday, May 7, 2011

15 Years After Signing DOMA, Clinton Speaks Out for Marriage Equality

Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
By Kilian Melloy -
Fifteen years after putting his signature to a federal law that excludes gay and lesbian families from any form of federal recognition or protections, Bill Clinton has joined daughter Chelsea in coming out for marriage equality in New York, reported The Huffington Post on May 5.

"Our nation’s permanent mission is to form a ’more perfect union’ deepening the meaning of freedom, broadening the reach of opportunity, strengthening the bonds of community," the former president wrote in a statement released by the Human Rights Campaign.

"That mission has inspired and empowered us to extend rights to people previously denied them," Clinton’s statement continued. "Every time we have done that, it has strengthened our nation. Now we should do it again, in New York, with marriage equality.

"For more than a century, our Statue of Liberty has welcomed all kinds of people from all over the world yearning to be free. In the 21st century, I believe New York’s welcome must include marriage equality."

"At a launch party for a non-profit group, Chelsea Clinton said she hopes gay people in New York will be able to marry their best friend, just like she did when she and husband Mark Mezvinsky wed last summer," the Huffington Post article said.

"I certainly expect my straight friends to help us achieve that for all New Yorkers, for all Americans, and for the children that, at least, Marc and I hope to have someday," said the former First Daughter.

Bill Clinton said in 2009 that his thinking had shifted on the issue, comments that bore similarities to President Obama telling bloggers last year that his attitude toward marriage equality is still "evolving."

"I am no longer opposed to [marriage equality]," Clinton said three years ago, noted Politico in a May 5 article. "I think if people want to make commitments that last a lifetime, they ought to be able to do it."

"The former president’s statement in support of the New York bill comes as advocates push for its passage ahead of the end of the state’s legislative session in June," Politico reported. "It’s passed the state Assembly three times in previous years, but failed in the state Senate the one time it came to the floor, in 2009."

Clinton’s 2009 remarks were made in an interview with Anderson Cooper. Gay blog Towleroad posted a transcript of that exchange on Sept. 25, 2009.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has remained an ardent supporter of marriage equality since his candidacy for the state’s top office, and has said that he intends to see it become a reality in New York during his tenure.

Wife Hillary Clinton, who serves in the Obama Administration as Secretary of State, still opposes marriage equality for gay and lesbian families, the Politico article noted.

Politico also observed that support for marriage equality in New York has come from the other side of the ideological aisle as well, with Barbara Bush--daughter of Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, who during his presidency called for an anti-gay amendment to the United States Constitution--speaking out earlier this year.

Other Republican figures who have lent their voice to GLBT equality campaigns in recent years include John McCain’s wife and daughter, Cindy McCain and Meghan McCain, respectively.

The bill that Clinton signed in 1996, the so-called "Defense of Marriage" Act, blocks any legal protections or recognition of same-sex families. Even if they marry in one of the six states where marriage equality is currently legal, same-sex couples must still pay higher federal taxes and, if one member of the household is a foreign national, the American partner is not permitted to act as a sponsor for residency and a green card, as heterosexual American partners in binational families are allowed to do.

Heterosexual families automatically receive more than 1,000 rights and protections upon marrying.

Kilian Melloy is EDGE Media Network’s Web Producer and Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes aggregate news stories and commentary for EDGE.

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