In Sunday’s op-ed for the New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni takes up issue with Bill and Hillary Clinton and their role in passing the Defense of Marriage act in 1996 during Clinton’s presidency.
The Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman only, and bars same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits that a heterosexual couple can receive through marriage.
Not surprisingly, DOMA has come under legal attack. Several court cases, Bruni points out, have ruled that it contradicts the Constitution’s equal-protection clause. The Supreme Court is in the midst of deciding which plan of action to take, but Bruni hopes that they will end up dismantling it altogether.
DOMA has a renewed sense of controversy with the current debate about same-sex marriage and whether or not it should be legalized in the United States. President Obama made history earlier this year when he was the first president ever to publically step out and say that he supports same-sex marriage. Still, DOMA exists.
Columnist Bruni takes up that issue with the Clintons, who are at the helm of the Democratic Party, saying that they should be taking a more active role regarding the same-sex marriage debate. With Obama’s clear support for it earlier this year, same-sex marriage is no longer an issue that can be skirted around.
Rumors are swirling about Hillary Clinton making a run for the presidential bid in 2016, especially with her stepping down from her role as Secretary of State this year. Bruni writes, “It’s past time, and it’s almost time for Hillary, who is about to step down as secretary of state, to catch up with other cabinet members and President Obama and make her presumed support for same-sex marriage explicit, which she has never done.”
Bruni goes on to say that it is a “shame” that both Hillary and Bill have “been on the sidelines” on this hot topic in recent times. Their influence is undeniable and powerful, says Bruni.
“What a shame, given that no two people have been larger in the Democratic Party over the last quarter-century and given the party’s deserved pride in its embrace of same-sex marriage now. The two of you should be a more integral part of that pride. You should be at the very epicenter of this. It’s strange and it’s sad that you’re not.”
Bruni does, however, point out that in 2009 Bill Clinton “said that DOMA should be wiped off the books and you endorsed same-sex marriage, getting out ahead of many Democrats who still had elections to worry about and weren’t yet seeing, in polls, as much public support for same-sex marriage as they wanted to see.”
However, it’s Clinton’s followup that frustrates Bruni. “But your comments since then have been sparse and succinct: no more than a written statement in favor of the 2011 bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, your home since you left the White House, and a recorded phone message urging North Carolinians last spring not to adopt a ban on same-sex marriage in their state Constitution, which they did anyway."
Bruni goes on to point out that not every leader can tackle every single issue, but the same-sex marriage debate is coming to a point, if not surpassed it, that it cannot be ignored.
In conclusion, Bruni writes, “What I and many others want most from you isn’t really an apology. It’s full membership — and, better yet, leadership — in a movement that’s headed inexorably in the right direction, with or without you.”
What do you think about the Clintons' handling of the same-sex marriage debate? Should they take on a more active role? Should Bill Clinton apologize for passing DOMA in 1996?