The Corner

Marriage of Convenience

Bill and Hillary Clinton have taken to arguing that they supported the Defense of Marriage Act in order to head off a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. “I think what my husband believed — and there was certainly evidence to support it — is that there was enough political momentum to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that there had to be some way to stop that,” she said a few days ago.

I wonder what evidence Clinton has in mind. I covered the Defense of Marriage Act debate in 1995 and 1996, and recall no such momentum behind a constitutional amendment. Essentially nobody was talking about an amendment. It was not until five years later, in 2001, that a group called the Alliance for Marriage—which had itself been formed in 1999—proposed a Federal Marriage Amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman in American law.

I certainly don’t recall any comment from the Clintons about the need to head off an amendment. I do recall that Bill Clinton ran an ad in 1996 touting his signing of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Maybe the Clintons felt that they had to hide their real reasons for action and pretend to think that the law deserved to be bragged about, because the public was just so hostile to same-sex marriage. But wait a minute: Aren’t we supposed to believe that the Clintons themselves were hostile to same-sex marriage back then? That they evolved on the issue more than a decade later? Am I having trouble keeping track of the Clintons’ lies on this issue? Are they?

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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