Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bill Clinton on Gay Marriage

Bill Clinton now supports gay marriage. This comes as a stark turnabout, as Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act back in the 1990s, which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman according to the federal government.

What brought about the change? Clinton has said he evolved over time. That is no doubt true. He has probably met more gay people, and reflected more on the issue as he’s grown older. But it’s hard to overlook the political aspect. Clinton is no longer in office anymore. He doesn’t have to deal with a political backlash for supporting gay marriage. He’s free to say whatever he wants. Coming out in support of gay marriage in 1996 would have dealt his reelection a crippling blow.

Will Clinton’s personal endorsement help the cause of gay marriage? I doubt it. Clinton was hated by conservative evangelicals, who have been at the forefront of the movement to ban gay marriage. So his word will hardly carry any weight with them. Perhaps, Clinton will help convince socially conservative Democrats to reevaluate their opinions on gay marriage, but I’m not sure he can sway them.

More to the point, I don’t think people are paying that much attention to gay issues right now. Most people are focused on the economy and healthcare. The fact that Bill Clinton just endorsed gay marriage might not have really registered with them.

1 comment:

  1. That's the problem of being president. No matter what your personal beliefs or campaign promises, eventually, you have to make some kind of concession to the other side. You're right, even if Clinton himself always supported gay marriage, signing the defense of marriage act was politically expedient to him.

    (Insert joke about how Clinton obviously never believed in the "sanctity of marriage" in the first place.)

    Ultimately, nobody is ever going to change the minds of conservative evangelicals and make them believe gay marriage is acceptable. What we can best hope for is convincing them that they don't have the right to force everyone to live under their belief system and people should be able to live as they want, and also convince them that making a man marrying a man legal will not somehow segue into making a man marrying a sheep legal.