In a written statement released May 5, former President Bill Clinton joined nearly three-dozen other prominent voices in the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign.
“Our nation's permanent mission is to form a ‘more perfect union’ –– deepening the meaning of freedom, broadening the reach of opportunity, strengthening the bonds of community,” the ex-Democratic chief executive, who now lives in Westchester County, said. “That mission has inspired and empowered us to extend rights to people previously denied them. Every time we have done that, it has strengthened our nation.”
Turning his attention directly to the effort to move an equal marriage bill through the State Senate before it adjourns at the end of June, Clinton continued, “Now we should do it again, in New York, with marriage equality. For more than a century, our Statue of Liberty has welcomed all kinds of people from all over the world yearning to be free. In the 21st century, I believe New York's welcome must include marriage equality.”
Since last September, HRC has released brief video messages endorsing the pending equal marriage bill from a slew of celebrities, community leaders, and elected officials, including Mayors Michael Bloomberg, David Dinkins, and Ed Koch, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Barbara Bush, one of the former president’s twin daughters, former police commissioner Bill Bratton, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, the widow of tennis great Arthur Ashe, and actors and singers Moby, Whoopi Goldberg, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lucy Liu, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Meloni, Sam Waterston, Ethan Hawke, Kyra Sedgwick, and Kevin Bacon.
Clinton first voiced his support for marriage equality in September 2009, when he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he had been “wrong” about same-sex marriage. In 1996, the president signed the US Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of valid same-sex marriages and purportedly gives the right to states to do the same.
That action, coming in the middle of a reelection campaign that turned into an easy glide, was widely seen as the Democrat’s effort to blunt the Republicans’ use of gay rights and gay marriage as wedge issues in the fall contest.
In the wake of DOMA’s passage, most of the states have moved to bar same-sex marriage or recognition of it through statute, constitutional amendment, or both. Some have gone so far as to ban any form of same-sex union recognition.
The former president’s announcement comes on the same day that his daughter, Chelsea, plans to join an evening phone banking operation that New Yorkers United for Marriage, a new statewide coalition of advocacy groups, plans at the Manhattan offices of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199.
On May 9, New Yorkers United for Marriage will be in Albany for the Empire State Pride Agenda’s annual Equality and Justice Day lobbying effort.
The marriage equality bill currently has 26 public supporters out of the 32 needed for passage in the Senate. At least three former opponents of the bill have recently signaled that their position this year is either undecided or undeclared.
The State Assembly has passed marriage quality three times, and Governor Andrew Cuomo is pressing the Senate to approve the measure by the end of next month.