June 01, 2007
Hillary, Obama on DOMA
Posted by: Chris
Some nuggets are emerging about where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stand on the Defense of Marriage Act, which both of them dodged in their gay issue position papers released last week. Buried in this long New York Observer profile on gay-focused fund-raising efforts by the Democratic presidential candidates was this little nugget:
Mrs. Clinton supports the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by her husband in 1996, which prevents a state from having to recognize the legality of a same-sex marriage performed elsewhere in the country.
That position resulted in an embarrassing confrontation back in March of last year, when Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay New York lobby, urged gay political donors to boycott a fund-raiser held for Mrs. Clinton’s Senate re-election campaign in Diane Von Furstenberg’s downtown studio.
In the course of explaining that he was still debating whether or not he would endorse a candidate in 2008, Mr. Van Capelle made it clear that he holds a grudge against Mrs. Clinton—and that he was enthusiastic about Mr. Obama.
“He has separated himself from the rest of the Democratic candidates at this early point in the campaign by seeming far less tortured when discussing our community,” Mr. Van Capelle said. “I’m happy that Senator Obama has called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, something that Senator Clinton is in favor of. The best I can decipher from candidate Edwards is that he is on both sides of the issue.”
A bit of a double-whammy for me, since I wasn't aware that either Clinton or Obama was on record about DOMA. A bit of digging turned up a letter from Barack Obama from February 2004, during his U.S. Senate campaign, to the gay Windy City Times:
For the record, I opposed [the Defense of Marriage Act] in 1996. It should be repealed and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor. I will also oppose any proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gays and lesbians from marrying. This is an effort to demonize people for political advantage, and should be resisted. …
When Members of Congress passed DOMA, they were not interested in strengthening family values or protecting civil liberties. They were only interested in perpetuating division and affirming a wedge issue. … Despite my own feelings about an abhorrent law, the realities of modern politics persist. While the repeal of DOMA is essential, the unfortunate truth is that it is unlikely with Mr. Bush in the White House and Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress.
Welcome news but funny how such full-throated opposition to "an abhorrent law" somehow got omitted entirely from Obama's position paper on gay issues, released last week. We'll have to wait and see whether his answer to the Human Rights Campaign candidate questionnaire is similarly silent.
As for Hillary standing by her man, who signed DOMA into law in 1996, the evidence is a bit murkier. The Observer doesn't say where it gets her position from, though I found a few other oblique mentions on the web along the same lines. Ironically the conservative press has done a better job of documenting her supposed support for DOMA than have the gay and progressive media.
An article in the New York publication Gay City News did indicate in passing that Hillary was sticking by DOMA as recently as last October. Paul Schindler reported:
Clinton went on to defend both DOMA and her decision not to speak during the marriage amendment debate this past June, and in fact linked the two. She said that without being able to point to the U.S. law which bars federal recognition of gay marriage and allows states to similarly refuse to acknowledge such unions from other states, many more members of Congress would have voted to amend the Constitution, especially when that effort had its first vote two years ago.
She explained that her choice not to speak on the Senate floor about the amendment this year was strategic. "Very few Democrats spoke, because maybe you thought one way, which is that you want people out there speaking for us. We thought as-force the Republicans out there, make them look like they're trying to enshrine discrimination in the Constitution. We don't even want to dignify it."
If all this holds up and is reaffirmed by the candidates now, then Obama's position is best on DOMA, favoring full repeal of "an abhorrent law." Meanwhile, Edwards backs repeal of just the half of DOMA that blocks federal recognition of gay marriages, and not the half that allows one state to ignore marriage licenses issues to gay couples by other states. And then there's Hillary, apparently still supporting DOMA in its entirety.
Let's hope those gays who showed up this week for her Washington, D.C., fund-raiser paused long enough before cutting their checks to ask where she actually stands on these issues.
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