View to Washington: Bill and Barack

As Bill Clinton endorsed marriage equality this week, Barack Obama gave us a glimpse of the change he could effect as president. But time is often the enemy of change when it comes to politics.

BY Kerry Eleveld

July 17 2009 12:00 AM ET

BILL CLINTON 200907 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

What's so ironic is that the other person who made news this week actually tried to keep his promise to gays on day one but retreated: Bill Clinton.

You may have missed this under-the-radar rollout, but former president Bill Clinton was quoted as telling someone in a rope line, "I'm basically in support [of same-sex marriage]." Only a politician as nimble as Clinton could have managed to unleash this intel without grabbing front-page headlines. Certainly if he had given a speech or granted an interview, the resulting media scrum would have dogged Obama for days. Apparently, the last Democratic president wanted to speak his truth without casting a shadow over the current one.

Naturally, every self-respecting LGBT person wished Clinton could have found his True North on the matter before he signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law. But then again, no one ever really believed he opposed marriage equality. Call it craven politics, but everyone knows Clinton signed DOMA into law before the '96 election to avoid a potential GOP family-values offensive at the ballot box.

What's troubling is that Clinton is not all that different from Obama -- who also picked up a pen in 1996 and on a candidate questionnaire wrote : "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages." At some point, he clearly concluded that marriage stance wouldn't fly on the national stage.

Bill Clinton's revelation this week reminds us that what's in a president's heart only matters in so far as it guides his or her actions. Barack Obama may have resurrected the promise he holds for LGBT people as well as countless others who stand on the margins, but as Quinn forewarned: Promise is both the currency and casualty of politics.

Tags: Politics

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