WASHINGTON (CBS News/AP) – Former President Bill Clinton is calling on the Supreme Court to overturn a law he signed that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
Clinton says the Defense of Marriage Act is incompatible with the Constitution. He says he signed the law in 1996 to avoid legislation that would have been even worse for gays.
“On March 27,” Clinton writes in a Washington Post op ed, “DOMA will come before the Supreme Court, and the justices must decide whether it is consistent with the principles of a nation that honors freedom, equality and justice above all, and is therefore constitutional. As the president who signed the act into law, I have come to believe that DOMA is contrary to those principles and, in fact, incompatible with our Constitution.”
“Among other things,” Clinton further writes, “these [same-sex couples who are legally married in nine states and the District of Columbia] cannot file their taxes jointly, take unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured spouse or receive equal family health and pension benefits as federal civilian employees. Yet they pay taxes, contribute to their communities and, like all couples, aspire to live in committed, loving relationships, recognized and respected by our laws.”
Clinton also writes that American society has changed. He says he now realizes the law discriminates against gays and provides an excuse for others to discriminate, too.
The Obama administration has stopped defending the law in court, and the Supreme Court is expected to take up a challenge to it later this month.
Separately, the high court is also considering whether California’s Proposition 8 gay marriage ban should stand. President Obama called on the Supreme Court to invalidate the ban last week.
(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and CBS Interactive. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)