Clinton, DOMA and GLAAD

by Bob Schwartz

Bill Clinton
People—including some politicians—hate politics, for a thousand reasons. Every one of those reasons is valid.

The answer to these reasons is the often cited quote from Otto von Bismarck: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.”

Oh principles, oh pragmatism. We honor and admire the idealists, but in the end we support those who get things done—especially the things that we want done.

This is a timeline. The common thread is one of America’s current political dynasties.

  • 1996 – President Bill Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • 2003 – Hillary Clinton votes for the Iraq War Resolution.
  • 2008 – Hillary Clinton runs for President.
  • 2011 – Bill Clinton comes out in favor of marriage equality.
  • 2013 – The Iraq War ends.
  • 2013 – Bill Clinton calls DOMA unconstitutional.
  • 2013 – DOMA is argued before the United States Supreme Court.
  • 2013 – Hillary Clinton comes out in favor of marriage equality.
  • 2013 – Bill Clinton to receive the Advocate for Change Award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
  • 2016 – Hillary Clinton runs for President?

People who do things for political reasons, or support those who do, should never be ashamed of that. Otto von Bismarck, unifier of the German Empire in the nineteenth century, certainly wasn’t.

But the “art of the possible” does create some tight and twisted places that Houdini might have trouble escaping from. Unless, of course, he had help.

Bill Clinton’s statement before signing DOMA includes this: “I also want to make clear to all that the enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.”

Here is DOMA, which has been the law of the United States for the last seventeen years, and may or may not still be the law after the Supreme Court decision.

The statute reads:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

It also changed the definition of marriage in U.S. law:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

Evolution—political, philosophical, or most other kinds—can be a wonderful thing, particularly if it leads to freedom and fairness. But evolution presupposes a prior state, which might be called “less evolved” or “unevolved.”

Some people approach this by pretending that the pre-evolutionary state didn’t exist. They may also be unwilling to acknowledge that the pre-evolutionary state was politically motivated, or that the evolution itself may be. Remember, the art of the possible is only possible by paying no attention to the man, or woman, behind the curtain. Once in a while, they even apologize for it, or contort themselves as John Kerry did, well-meaningly, about his prior support for the Iraq War: “I was for it before I was against it.”

Still, this is America. We love second chances and second acts. Consider the late Senator Robert Byrd, who emerged from the depths of racism to become a champion of Constitutional rights. But while it may not be fitting to punish people for having once upon a time acted in a powerfully less enlightened way, this doesn’t always mean they have to be rewarded. Or awarded.

Advertisements