Michael Tracey | July 14, 2009
Former President Bill Clinton has come out in support of same-sex marriage.
After speaking at the Campus Progress National Conference in Washington, DC, on July 8, the former president was asked if he supported same-sex marriage. Clinton, in a departure from past statements, replied in the affirmative.
Clinton opposed same-sex marriage during his presidency, and in 1996, he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which limited federal recognition of marriage to one man and one woman. In May of this year, Clinton told a crowd at Toronto’s Convention Centre that his position on same-sex marriage was “evolving .”
Apparently, Clinton’s thinking has now further evolved. Asked if he would commit his support for same-sex marriage, Clinton responded, “I’m basically in support.”
This spring, same-sex marriage was legalized in Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire. In his most recent remarks on the subject, Clinton said, “I think all these states that do it should do it.” The former president, however, added that he does not believe that same-sex marriage is “a federal question.”
Asked if he personally supported same-sex marriage, Clinton replied, “Yeah.” “I personally support people doing what they want to do,” Clinton said. “I think it’s wrong for someone to stop someone else from doing that [same-sex marriage].”
The former president joins a string of prominent Democrats who have recently switched their position on the issue, including former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean, New York Senator Charles E. Schumer, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd.
“Bill Clinton joins other important public figures in stepping solidly into the twenty-first century in support of same-sex marriage equality,” said the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s executive director Rea Carey. “We certainly hope other elected officials, including President Obama, join him in clearly stating their support for equality in this country. Same-sex couples should not have to experience second-class citizenship.”
Clinton’s reversal is the highest-profile one to date. It may also have political implications for the future of the Defense of Marriage Act. President Obama has pledged to repeal the law, but in June, the Justice Department filed a brief in federal court defending the law’s constitutionality.
A recent Gallup poll  found that a majority of Democrats favor same-sex marriage.