Bill Clinton urges repeal of US gay marriage ban

Former US president Bill Clinton on Friday urged the Supreme Court to overturn a bill he signed in 1996 defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, calling it "discriminatory."

Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act after it was approved by a wide majority in Congress, believing it would prevent the passage of an outright ban on same-sex marriage, he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

"When I signed the bill, I included a statement with the admonition that 'enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.'" he wrote.

"Reading those words today, I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory. It should be overturned."

The Supreme Court is set to take up cases on March 26 and 27 dealing with the federal ban on same-sex marriage.

An unlikely coalition including President Barack Obama's administration, some Republican lawmakers and celebrities has called on the court to legalize gay marriage, which is banned at the federal level but legal in nine states.