NGLTF Denounces President’s Intention To Support DOMA

May 22, 1996

'Possible Political Gain Not Worth the Abandonment of Principles'

According to news reports, the White House indicated today that President Clinton would sign the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) should it pass Congress.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the nation's oldest national lesbian and gay civil rights organization criticized the President's decision as unnecessary, divisive, and an assault on the integrity of gay and lesbian families.

The following is a statement from NGLTF on news reports from that the President will sign DOMA should it cross his desk. The statement is attributable to NGLTF executive director Melinda Paras:

"We are deeply disappointed and dismayed at the announcement today that the President is willing and ready to sign into law anti-marriage legislation. In making this decision, the President has abandoned his commitment to tolerance, compassion, and fairness. The President's support of DOMA is a slap in the face of gay and lesbian families across America. The President knows from his own family experience what it is like to be part of a 'non-traditional' family. He should reject this construct of second class citizenship for families that don't fit the narrow image of the 'traditional family' as defined by Right Wing extremists.

"President Clinton's support of DOMA is also a political misstep. By announcing now that he is willing to sign this unnecessary and divisive legislation, the President is giving undeserved momentum to this bill. The President also should understand that leadership and courage garners greater respect - and political support - - than actions based on political expediency.

"Mr. President, whatever possible political gain your advisors think you will achieve by this maneuver is not worth your abandonment of the principles of fairness and equality for all."

The following is a copy of the letter sent to President Clinton from Executive Director, Melinda Paras

May 23, 1996

The Honorable William J. Clinton
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the oldest national gay and lesbian civil rights organization, I am writing to express our deep disappointment, and dismay, at the announcement today that you would sign into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), should it pass Congress. By making such an announcement at this time, you may have provided the momentum needed to assure passage of this Act. The impact of endorsing this divisive legislation now is broader and could be more damaging to our communities than the previous announcement of your beliefs about marriage itself.

DOMA, the anti-marriage legislation, was introduced in Congress barely over a week ago at the urging of the Traditional Values Coalition, the Family Research Council and other political extremists. After losing overwhelmingly on anti-gay state and local initiatives over the past few years, these Right-wing political extremists have shifted their anti-gay campaignÕs focus to this issue.

Since the beginning of the election season it has been clear that the issue of same-gender marriage would be used as a wedge issue between fair-minded Americans and those who promote hatred and intolerance in this country. These extremists publicly kicked off their anti-gay marriage crusade at a televised rally held at the First Federated Church in Des Moines, Iowa, on the eve of the presidential primary election held in that state. The rally, organized by the Christian Coalition and seven other national Right-wing political organizations, became a vehicle for demonizing gays and lesbians and same-gender marriage as "the source of all ills in America."

These organizations took their campaign for anti-marriage legislation to the state legislatures around the country. Only 34 states responded by introducing almost identical legislation on this issue. In 17 states, legislators were willing to stand up to the rhetoric of and pressure from these extremists by refusing to pass this legislation. Only nine states adopted such bills, while the jury is still out in the remaining states. Having failed to accomplish their goal of having state legislatures move their agenda forward on this issue as quickly as they had expected, these Right-wing political extremists have come to Congress seeking to win at least a moral victory on the Federal level.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender family issues, such as marriage, adoption and custody, are here to stay because they speak to the aspirations of same-gender couples, just as they do for all committed couples. Most importantly, however, we will continue to face them because they reflect the real circumstances of lesbian and gay family lives. And, of course, we face them because an extremist Right-wing political movement has chosen to target our families in its quest for power in American society.

DOMA is bogus legislation: it neither strengthens American families nor marriages between men and women. What the legislation does do is to draw a circle around gays, lesbians and bisexuals and state that our families do not deserve recognition. In the hands of the extreme Right, "family" serves as both a symbol and a weapon: a symbol of an imaginary past when everything was fine, and a weapon to divide society into good people and bad, the moral and the immoral, the productive citizen and the social parasite.

The timing of your announcement is especially unfortunate, Mr. President. Only three days ago gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities were celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court decision which emphatically stated that gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans are deserving of all the same rights and protections provided under the Constitution to all Americans. This ruling was welcome for the moral, as well as legal, principles it set forth. The Supreme Court's message: gay and lesbian Americans shall not be discriminated against simply because of "animosity" towards them.

This message of inclusivity stands in stark contrast to the message of the political extremists who seek to isolate and demonize our communities and who are using the marriage issue toward that end. By endorsing this legislation now, Mr. President, you have given support and momentum to the efforts and agenda of these extremists.


Melinda Paras
Executive Director


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.