TERRY GROSS: So you mention that you believe in state by state for gay marriage. But it’s a Supreme Court, too. The Supreme Court struck down part of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented the federal government from recognizing gay marriage. That part is now struck down. And DOMA was actually signed by your husband when he was president. In spite of the fact that he signed it, were you glad at this point that the Supreme Court struck some of it down?CLINTON: Of course. And you know, again, let’s…we are living at a time when this extraordinary change is occurring and I’m proud of our country, I’m proud of the people who have been on the front lines of advocacy, but in 1993, that was not the case. And there was a very concerted effort in the Congress to make it even more difficult and greater discrimination, and what DOMA did is at least allow the states to act. It wasn’t going to yet be recognized by the federal government, but at the state level there was the opportunity. And my husband was the first to say, that, you know, the political circumstances, the threats that were trying to be alleviated by the passage of DOMA, thankfully, were no longer so preeminent and we could keep moving forward, and that’s what we’re doing.GROSS: So, just to clarify, just one more question on this: Would you say your view evolved since the ’90s, or that the American public evolved, allowing you to state your real view?CLINTON: I think I’m an American, I think that we have all evolved, and it’s been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I’m aware of.GROSS: I understand, but a lot of people believed in it already back in the ’90s. They supported gay marriage.CLINTON: To be fair, Terry, not that many. Were there activists who were ahead of their time? Well, that was true in every human rights and civil rights movement, but the vast majority of Americans were just waking up to this issue, and beginning to think about it, and grasp it for the first time, and think about their neighbor down the street who deserved to have the same rights as they did, or their son, or their daughter. It has been an extraordinarily fast, by historic terms, social, political and legal transformation, and we ought to celebrate that instead of plowing old ground when in fact a lot of people, the vast majority of people, have been moving forward. Maybe slowly, maybe tentatively, maybe not as quickly and extensively as many would have hoped, but nevertheless we are at a point now where equality, including marriage equality, in our country is solidly established, although there [will] be places, Texas just to name one, where that is still going to be an ongoing struggle.GROSS: I’m pretty sure you didn’t answer my question about whether you evolved or was the America public the change.CLINTON: Because I said I’m an American, so of course we all evolved and I think that’s a fair conclusion.ROSS: So you’re saying your opinion on gay marriage changed.CLINTON: You know, somebody is always first, Terry. Somebody is always out front and thank goodness they are. But that doesn’t mean that those who join later, in being publicly supportive or even privately accepting that there needs to be change, are any less committed. You could not be having the sweep of marriage equality across the country if nobody changed their mind, and thank goodness so many of us have.GROSS: So that’s one for you changed your mind?CLINTON: You know I really, I have to say, I think you [are] being very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue.GROSS: I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand.CLINTON: No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify. I think you are trying to say that I used to be opposed and now I am in favor and I did it for political reasons. And that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like I think you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record. I have a great commitment to this issue and I am proud of what I’ve done and the progress we’re making.GROSS: You know I’m just saying, I’m sorry – I just want to clarify what I was saying – no, I was saying that you maybe really believed this all along, but, you know believed in gay marriage all along, but felt for political reasons America wasn’t ready yet and you couldn’t say it. That’s what I was thinking.CLINTON: No. That is not true.GROSS: Okay.CLINTON: I did not grow up even imagining gay marriage and I don’t think you did either. This was an incredible new and important idea that people on the front lines of the gay rights movement began to talk about and slowly, but surely, convinced others about the rightness of that position. When I was ready to say what I said, I said it.
June 13, 2014 at 8:45 AM EDT