Former President Bill Clinton is remembered as a socially liberal president, but it's his signature that the Defense of Marriage Act - the very bill that gay rights advocates are trying to get overturned in the Supreme Court this week. Since approving DOMA in 1996, however, Clinton has reportedly been haunted by the decision, which was seen as a political move rather than an ideological one. By 2009, Mr. Clinton was publicly regretting the decision; in 2011, he endorsed New York's same-sex marriage law. Finally, this month, he penned an
Hillary Clinton remains mum about her future political aspirations, but her recent announcement formally backing same-sex marriage was seen as a sign that she's not about to be left behind her fellow Democratic politicians on an issue could be pivotal in 2016. Earlier this month, she released a video via the Human Rights Campaign expressing her own "evolution" on marriage equality, and her belief that, since gays and lesbians are "full and equal citizens," they "deserve the rights of citizenship."
"That includes marriage," she said in the video. "That's why I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I support it personally and as a matter of policy and law."
Her announcement marked the latest shift over an issue on which she has been evolving for years. In 2007, Clinton rejected DOMA but then clarified through a spokesperson that she was objecting to the law's ban on federal recognition of same-sex marriages, not the idea that states have authority to determine the law independently.
Before her announcement, Clinton had long supported civil unions between same-sex couples, and she also backed the 2011 law that legalized same-sex marriage in New York State.
Credit: Human Rights Campaign
Former VP Dick Cheney, a combative and controversial Republican who served under a president who pushed for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, was seemingly an unlikely candidate to lead the charge in its favor. But in 2009, the he endorsed it publicly, citing the idea that "freedom means freedom for everyone" - including his daughter, who is a lesbian.
"As many of you know, one of my daughters is gay and it is something that we have lived with for a long time, in our family," he said in 2009. "I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish. Any kind of arrangement they wish."
Cheney said then, as he had in the past, that he believes the issue should be determined by state legislatures.
Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Sen. Rob Portman
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who was on the short list to be Mitt Romney's running mate last summer, has long been considered an adamant social conservative - and actually co-sponsored DOMA back in 1996. This month, however, he stunned people on both sides of the aisle with a public reversal on the subject: Influenced by his son, who is gay, Portman came out in favor of same-sex marriage.
"I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn't deny them the opportunity to get married," he wrote, explaining his decision in an op-ed this month.
"My position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years."
Credit: Office of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman
Amid this recent boon of support, two prominent Democratic Senators decided to join the bandwagon: This week, Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Mark Warner, D-Va., came out for marriage equality.
As Democrats in conservative-friendly states, their support signals a sense that backing same-sex marriage is no longer considered a major political liability.