In an op-ed published Thursday evening in the Washington Post, former president Bill Clinton announced his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, which he signed into law in 1996. Clinton defended his initial support of the bill, saying that, when it was passed, there were no states that recognized same-sex marriage. At the time, Clinton said the bill seemed like the best option to prevent a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Now, however, Clinton finds the bill unconstitutional and "contrary...with the principles of a nation that honors freedom, equality, and justice above all."

Because Section 3 of the act defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, same-sex couples who are legally married in nine states and the District of Columbia are denied the benefits of more than a thousand federal statutes and programs available to other married couples. Among other things, these couples cannot file their taxes jointly, take unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured spouse or receive equal family health and pension benefits as federal civilian employees. Yet they pay taxes, contribute to their communities and, like all couples, aspire to live in committed, loving relationships, recognized and respected by our laws.

Clinton also noted a statement he included at the bill's signing, which said, "[E]nactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination."

As it turns out, the bill didn't just provide an excuse for discrimination, Clinton wrote, it "itself is discriminatory" and "should be overturned." The Defense of Marriage Act will go before the Supreme Court on March 27.

[Washington Post/Image via AP]