“We were attempting at the time, in a very reactionary Congress,” Bill Clinton told an audience in 2009, “to head off an attempt to send a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the states.” Four former senators — including Tom Daschle, who made the claim in 2011 — raised the idea in a Supreme Court brief in 2013. Clinton later cited that brief when, in a Washington Post op-ed, he called for the law he signed to be struck down by the court. Hillary Clinton just last week called her husband’s decision to sign DOMA “a defensive action.”
There is no contemporaneous evidence, however, to support the claim that the Clinton White House considered a possible federal constitutional amendment to be a concern, based on a BuzzFeed News review of the thousands of documents released earlier this year by the Clinton Presidential Library about same-sex couples’ marriage rights and the Defense of Marriage Act. In the documents, which include correspondence from a wide array of White House and Justice Department officials, no one even hints that Bill Clinton’s thinking or actions regarding DOMA were animated by the threat of a federal constitutional amendment…
For the most part, White House staffers assumed Clinton would eventually support DOMA once the bill’s introduction was certain. Bill Clinton had already stated his opposition same-sex couples’ marriage rights. In 1996, Clinton repeatedly marked his approval of talking points on same-sex marriage, as it is referred to in the documents and will be referred to throughout this report, and DOMA; the talking points included his opposition to same-sex marriage and opposition to providing federal benefits to same-sex couples.
While some of the few out gay employees and their strongest straight allies worked in the spring of the year to find a way to keep Clinton from supporting DOMA, the internal conversation surrounding the bill mostly concerned when Clinton would announce his support.