Gay HistoryOf Interest

#NeverForget – September 20, 1996: The Day Bill Clinton Sold Out The Gay Community And Signed DOMA Into Law


September 20, 1996:

On this day in 1996, then President Bill Clinton announced his signing of the Defense of Marriage Act, which outlawed federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and which allowed the Federal Government to ignore the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S Constitution and refuse to recognized valid marriages from other states. Clinton said that he signed DOMA to head off a federal constitutional amendment, but LGBT advocates and many in the political pundits agree  that the act was less than a defense against a federal constitutional amendment and more a defense of his 1996 re-election campaign. Those suspicions were confirmed when the Clinton released a campaign ad in 15 Christian radio stations  in conservative states boasting that he had signed the Defense of Marriage Act. After being found out and because of the response to loud protests from LGBT advocates, the Clinton campaign pulled that ad two days later.

In March of 2013 , Bill Clinton finally disavowed the Defense of Marriage Act entirely, urging that the law be overturned by the Supreme Court, But to this day while Clinton has never publicly  apologized to the gay and lesbian community for the damage and pain that DOMA caused millions lesbian and gay Americans.

“President Clinton has evolved on this issue just like every American has evolved,” said Human Rights Campaign, President Chad Griffin

A little trivia for those who don’t know. Chad Griffin worked as White House Press Office manager  for Mr. Clinton’s White House administration during the time that Clinton  signed of DOMA. 

It took the gay community almost 20 years and countless millions of dollars to undo the harm that Bill Clinton did by signing DOMA into law.

Clinton has never formally apologized for signing the Defense of Marriage Act into law.


Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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4 thoughts on “#NeverForget – September 20, 1996: The Day Bill Clinton Sold Out The Gay Community And Signed DOMA Into Law”

  1. Regarding Clinton’s defense, what do you think would have happened if Clinton hadn’t been elected? As I recall, he claimed that his opponent would have done much worse things, including seeking the constitutional amendment. I would like to hear your response to this.

  2. His opponent likely would have done worse, yes. But let’s be clear about a federal constitutional amendment: That was simply not in the mix, not on the table, and not in the air when Clinton signed DOMA. That is revisionist history that is rejected even by strong Clinton supporters who were LGBT leaders back then and in the loop as to what threats were real — people like Hilary Rosen and Elizabeth Birch and many more who all called out Bill’s revision of history when he tried to sell it a couple of years ago. They weren’t having it, and neither should we. A federal constitutional amendment only became a real prospect during W’s presidency, in response to the Massachusetts and other decisions that started to bring in marriage equality state by state.

What do you think?