A bill banning the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in the middle of the night after returning to Washington from a four-day campaign trip Sept. 20. In a written statement released during a campaign appearance in South Dakota, Clinton said he had agreed to sign the bill because he has “long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages and this legislation is consistent with that position.”
Clinton noted that the bill he was signing “confirms the right of each state to determine its own policy with respect to same-gender marriage and clarifies for purposes of federal law the operative meaning of the terms marriage’ and spouse’ and added, “This legislation does not reach beyond those two provisions. It has no effect on any current federal, state or local anti-discrimination law and does not constrain the right of Congress or any state or locality to enact anti-discrimination laws.”
Clinton also urged Congress to pass a bill to protect homosexual workers from employment discrimination.
Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the nation’s largest homosexual lobby, the Human Rights Campaign, said, “We regret that Clinton opted to sign this needless and mean-spirited bill. We had hoped that the President would have changed his mind after hearing the anti-gay rhetoric spouted by some extreme members of Congress.”
Steve Michael, a national AIDS activist, condemned Clinton’s decision, and warned that it would cost the President homosexual votes. “It is clear by his middle of the night stealth vote that Clinton knows what he is doing is wrong,” said Michael. “We will remember his betrayal on Nov. 5.”
White House spokesman Mike McCurry seemed to lend credence to Michael’s theory, saying Clinton signed the bill late at night because “the President believes the motives behind this bill are dubious and the President believes that the sooner he gets this over with, the better.” McCurry has characterized the Defense of Marriage Act as an election-year ploy by Republicans.
A handful of homosexual activists demonstrated against Clinton as he left the Foundry United Methodist Church Sept. 22, shouting, “Shame, shame, shame.” But a poll by the Human Rights Campaign found that homosexuals still overwhelmingly support Clinton, by a margin of 74 percent to 13 percent.
The bill was passed in anticipation of a pending court decision in Hawaii that may strike down that state’s policy against permitting same-sex marriage. The law gives each state the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, and defines for purposes of federal law that a marriage is a union between one man and one woman.
Meanwhile in Honolulu, Hawaii, the trial that prompted the Defense of Marriage Act wound up Sept. 20 after eight days of testimony and arguments. Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Kevin Chang is expected to rule on the case sometime in November, but because both sides have said they will appeal to the state Supreme Court, a final ruling is not expected for at least a year.
In closing arguments for the state, Deputy Attorney General Rick Eichor characterized Hawaii’s ban on same-sex marriages as a policy that serves the best interests of children. “We believe the evidence has shown that male-female relationships are the most likely to promote child development,” he said. “Children need a mother, father, and male-female influences in their home.” Eichor added, “The state is entitled to identify the structure we believe is reasonable. If marriage is reduced to love only, then why not allow three, four, or more people who love each other to marry?”
Dan Foley, an attorney for the three homosexual couples who are challenging Hawaii’s policy of granting marriage licenses only to heterosexual couples, argued that the state had not presented evidence to meet its burden of showing a “compelling” reason for banning same-sex marriage. “The record in this case shows that there is no evidence to show that issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple will harm or has an adverse impact on a child,” Foley said. “The undisputed evidence in this case is that same-sex parents and gay and lesbian parents are just as fit and as loving as heterosexual parents.”
During the trial sociologists and child development experts presented conflicting testimony on the suitability of homosexual couples as parents. In 1993 Hawaii’s Supreme Court ruled that denying marriage licenses to homosexual couples constituted gender discrimination, and sent the case back to a lower court, ordering the state to show a compelling interest for the policy. The state has argued that its compelling interest is the optimal development of children.
— E.P. News