Gay Marriage Ban Dogs Bill Clinton As GLAAD Announces Award
GLAAD will honor former President Bill Clinton at its April 20 Los Angeles gala with the first Advocate for Change Award during the LGBT organization's 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards.
"President Clinton's support of the LGBT community and recognition that DOMA, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional and should be struck down shows that the political landscape continues to change in favor of LGBT equality," GLAAD's Wilson Cruz said in a statement reported by the Hollywood Reporter. "Leaders and allies like President Clinton are critical to moving our march for equality forward."
To say that not everyone agrees with Cruz might be an understatement. Last month, Clinton reignited the simmering anger felt by many LGBT Americans over his signing the Defense of Marriage Act into law. In an op-ed piece for the Washington Post in which he urged the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA. The 1996 law defines marriage between one man and one woman on the federal level, denies federal benefits to same-sex couples, and denies federal recognition of same-sex couple married in other nations or even in states of the United States.
"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," he wrote. Bloggers, pundits and activists rejected Clinton's piece as political expediency. What particularly infuriated them was that "I have come to believe" as ingenious at best; and at worst, a textbook example of Clinton's putting his political finger to the wind and going with its direction. (His wife, widely considered a potential candidate for the job in 2016, followed him shortly with her own declaration.)
Clinton signed DOMA because "he refused to be leader on a civil rights issue, irrationally fearful of the ramifications of vetoing the bill and rationalizing the damage caused by signing it," Michelangelo Signorile wrote in The Huffington Post.
He was speaking for many when he spoke of the former president's "refusal to take leadership really goes back to day one of his presidency." Signing DOMA, he said, "was when he signaled to the GOP, like a frightened person on the street signals fear to a barking dog, that he was deathly afraid of the gay issue and would not be a leader on it."
The Washington Blade's editor-in-chief, Kevin Naff, opined that Clinton's late apology is a "typically cynical, desperate bid to rewrite history." He wrote that Clinton's op-ed is "a naked attempt to get on the right side of history before the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA. He sounds desperate, highlighting the fact that 'DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress.'"
As late as 2008, Clinton was still defending DOMA. He told college students that DOMA was only "a slight rewriting of history." He also criticized Melissa Etheridge for saying he threw the community "under a bus."
The recent rediscovery of the Clinton Administration's mixed record on gay rights has also focused renewed attention on Don't Ask Don't Tell. Early in his presidency, Clinton tried to change military policy to allow openly gay service members. But congressional opposition derailed his plans. The result, DADT, was a compromise that please almost nobody.
It stayed in place until 2011. Clinton had more luck with the federal civilian workforce, where the president, as chief executive, has more sway. He outlawed discrimination in all agencies.
Clinton appointed a then-record number of out-LGBT senior staff members and appointed the first out-gay ambassador. He also strongly supported adding sexual orientation to federal hate crimes. His post-presidency Clinton Health Access Initiative has been dedicated to fighting AIDS in the developing world.
Last year, Clinton recorded a robocall for use in North Carolina, where voters nonetheless voted to put a gay marriage ban in the state's constitution.
GLAAD, which recently formally dropped the full "Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation" in deference to the trans community, will give Clinton the award on April 20 in Los Angeles.
The organization should probably brace itself for blowback. Typical were the commentson gay blogsite JoeMyGod.
"Yet another example of the zero accountability culture in Washington DC.," wrote one. "Is this organization trying to self-destruct and become a laughing stock?" wrote another. "To my gay eyes it appears to exist solely to have glitzy awards ceremonies."
"This seems about par for the course, honoring someone who signed the most discriminatory act against gay and lesbians in history," wrote a commenter on Towleroad. "If he doesn't acknowledge the damage DOMA has caused to millions of people and apologize for it then I hope he gets booed," wrote another.
Charlize Theron, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence are also expected to attend the gala at the JW Marriott in Downtown Los Angeles. Last month, Madonna dressed as a Boy Scout when she presented Anderson Cooper with an award a GLAAD's New York City gala.