During an appearance Friday on MSNBC, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked how her views on civil rights differ from those of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Rachel Maddow noted that much of the progress on civil rights that came out of the Obama administration dealt with undoing legislation signed by President Clinton. Maddow used “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” which prohibited openly gay troops from serving in the military, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibited federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples, and mandatory prison sentences as examples.

Clinton responded by saying that DOMA and “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” were “defensive actions” taken by her husband.

“On Defense of Marriage, I think what my husband believed – and there was certainly evidence to support it – is that there was enough political momentum to amend the Constitution of the United States, and that there had to be some way to stop that,” Clinton told Maddow, a reference to efforts to insert a heterosexual definition of marriage in the U.S. Constitution.

“And so, in a lot of ways, DOMA was a line that was drawn that was to prevent going further. It was a defensive action.”

On “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” Clinton said that President Clinton's 1992 promise to let gays serve openly in the military was met with “the most astonishing overreaction” by Congress and the military.

“And so, “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” again became a defensive line.”

“I'm not in any way excusing them. I'm explaining them,” she said.

“Sometimes as a leader in a democracy, you are confronted with two bad choices. And it is not an easy position to be in,” she added.