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Statement on Same-Gender Marriage

September 20, 1996

Throughout my life I have strenuously opposed discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. I am signing into law H.R. 3396, a bill relating to same-gender marriage, but it is important to note what this legislation does and does not do.

I have long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages, and this legislation is consistent with that position. The act confirms the right of each State to determine its own policy with respect to same-gender marriage and clarifies for purposes of Federal law the operative meaning of the terms "marriage" and "spouse."

This legislation does not reach beyond those two provisions. It has no effect on any current Federal, State, or local antidiscrimination law and does not constrain the right of Congress or any State or locality to enact antidiscrimination laws. I therefore would take this opportunity to urge Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, an act which would extend employment discrimination protections to gays and lesbians in the workplace. This year the Senate considered this legislation contemporaneously with the act I sign today and failed to pass it by a single vote. I hope that in its next session Congress will pass it expeditiously.

I also want to make clear to all that the enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination, violence, or intimidation against any person on the basis of sexual orientation. Discrimination, violence, and intimidation for that reason, as well as others, violate the principle of equal protection under the law and have no place in American society.

NOTE: H.R. 3396, approved September 21, was assigned Public Law No. 104-199.

William J. Clinton, Statement on Same-Gender Marriage Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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