In the early months of 2000, aides inside President Bill Clinton’s White House faced a dilemma.
Californian voters would soon vote on a ballot measure to ban the recognition of marriages between same-sex couples. Should Clinton speak out against the California initiative, as the two leading Democratic candidates running for president had done? What could Clinton say?
Just four years earlier, Clinton had signed the Defense of Marriage Act, the law that stated the federal government would not recognize the marriages of same-sex couples as valid and states didn’t need to do so, either.
After a prominent Democrat raised the issue of California initiative, Proposition 22, with the president, his deputy chief of staff sent an email to several senior aides.
Clinton “would like to” oppose Prop 22, she wrote, “but he asked that we figure out how to square it [with] the fact that he signed [DOMA].”