How Things Have Changed: A Video Review Of The Vile Attacks Against LGBT Americans During The 1996 DOMA Debate

Yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act highlighted the nation’s evolution towards LGBT equality, but also demonstrated a decreased desire on the part of Republicans to use same-sex marriage as a political wedge. For while DOMA passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in 1996, just two Republican senators — Chuck Grassley (IA) and Orrin Hatch (UT) — appeared at yesterday’s hearing, and only one (Grassley) spoke-up in its defense. The rest of the debate was dominated by Democrats, some of whom expressed regret for voting for the law, “talked warmly about how DOMA wrongly harms same-sex couples and their children,” and explored how federal discrimination contributed to the high suicide rates within the LGBT community.

The tone marked a stark departure to the hateful and discriminatory comments leveled against the LGBT community in 1996, when, as the below video compilation reveals, Republican senators tripped over themselves to condemn the “homosexual lifestyle”:

— REP. TOM COBURN (R-OK): “And there are studies to say that over 43% of all people who profess homosexuality have greater than 500 partners”.

— REP. BOB BARR (R-GA): “It is part of a deliberate, coldly calculated power move to confront the basic social institutions on which our country not only was founded, but has prospered, and will continue to prosper.”

— SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS): “To force upon our communities the legal recognition of same sex marriage would be social engineering beyond anything in the American experience.”

Watch the compilation:

As E.J. Graff put it in the Atlantic after watching yesterday’s hearing, “It’s hard to remember that now-foreign country, which was almost unrecognizably hostile to lesbians and gay men.” Indeed, Bob Barr, who sponsored the act, and President Clinton, who signed it, are now calling for its repeal.