Bill Clinton: Supreme Court should overturn Defense of Marriage Act

Former President Bill Clinton said in an op-ed published Thursday that the Supreme Court should overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law he signed that prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay marriage.

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In the column for The Washington Post, Clinton says that the bill denies same-sex couples who are legally married the "benefits of more than a thousand federal statutes and programs available to other married couples."

"On March 27, DOMA will come before the Supreme Court, and the justices must decide whether it is consistent with the principles of a nation that honors freedom, equality and justice above all, and is therefore constitutional," Clinton writes. "As the president who signed the act into law, I have come to believe that DOMA is contrary to those principles and, in fact, incompatible with our Constitution."

The former president defends his decision to support the bill during his time in office, arguing that to do otherwise risked further setting back gay marriage initiatives. He also calls the law "discriminatory" and compares the law to those that barred women from voting.

"I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory," Clinton said. "It should be overturned."

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of DOMA later this month, and will also consider a case questioning the constitutionality of California's gay marriage ban. 

Gay rights activists praised Clinton's public rejection of the bill carrying his signature.

“A growing chorus has risen up in opposition to DOMA but the loudest voice is now the man who signed the bill into law calling for it to be overturned," said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement. "As President Clinton eloquently articulated, DOMA is a vestige of another time and now we must turn our back on legally sanctioned discrimination.”

--This report was updated at 10:46 p.m.