Metro Weekly

President Biden Signs Respect for Marriage Act into Law

Bipartisan marriage equality law would protect recognition of same-sex couples' marriages in case of a Supreme Court reversal.

President Joe Biden signs the Respect for Marriage Act into law on Dec. 13, 2022 during a ceremony on the White House lawn. – Photo: The White House.

On Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, a bill that would compel the federal government and individual states to recognize same-sex marriages as valid in case the Supreme Court should overrule its previous ruling legalizing marriage equality nationwide.

At a ceremony on the White House South Lawn, featuring speeches from various elected officials and LGBTQ couples, and musical performances by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, Cyndi Lauper, and Sam Smith, Biden signed the bill, which passed both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support, into law.

“Today’s a good day. Today, America takes a vital step toward equality, toward liberty and justice, not just for some, but for everyone,” Biden said in prepared remarks. “Toward creating a nation where decency, dignity, and love are recognized, honored and protected.

“Deciding whether to marry, who to marry, is one of the most profound decisions a person can make. As I’ve said before, and as some of you might remember, on a certain TV show ten years ago” — a reference to his coming out in support of marriage equality as the sitting vice president during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, amid the 2012 re-election campaign, and before then-President Barack Obama’s campaign was ready to broach the issue — “marriage is a simple proposition: Who do you love, and will you be loyal to the person you love? It’s not more complicated than that. 

“This law recognizes that everyone should have the right to answer those questions for themselves, without the government’s interference,” Biden said of the Respect for Marriage Act. “It also secures the federal rights and protections that come with marriage, like when your loved one gets sick and you’re legally recognized as the next of kin.”

Referencing the bill’s inclusion of protections for interracial marriages — which, like same-sex nuptials, were outlawed in many states, and relied on a Supreme Court ruling that recognized rights not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution — Biden added: “For most of our nation’s history, we denied interracial couples and same-sex couples from these protections. We failed to treat them with equal dignity and respect. And now, the law requires interracial marriage and same-sex marriage must be recognized as legal in every state in the nation.”

Biden praised various congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senate sponsors Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), for their advocacy on behalf of the bill.

“My fellow Americans, the road to this moment has been long. But those who believe in equality and justice, you never gave up — many of you standing on the South Lawn here. So many of you put your relationships on the line, your jobs in the line, your lives on the line, to fight for the law I’m about to sign,” Biden said. 

“It’s one thing for the Supreme Court to rule on a case. It’s another thing entirely, if elected representatives of the people take a vote on the floor of the United States Congress and say loudly and clearly, ‘Love is love. Right is right. Justice is justice,'” he added.  “Racism, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia — they’re all connected. But the antidote to hate is love. This law and the love it defends strike a blow against hate in all its forms. And that’s why this law matters to every single American, no matter who you are or who you love.”

Schumer, whose daughter is married to another woman, talked about how the new law is particularly significant for his daughter’s family, noting that the law’s passage was “personal” for many lawmakers, including himself.

The tie I am wearing reminds me what this moment is all about. It’s the tie I wore on the day my daughter got married to a beautiful young lady. One of the happiest days of my life,” Schumer said. “She and her wife are expecting their first child next spring — my third grandchild — and I want them to raise their child with all the love and security that every kid deserves.

By enacting this law, we are sending a message to LGBTQ Americans everywhere. You, too, deserve dignity. You, too, deserve equality. That’s about as an American ideal as they come,” he said.

Pelosi, in her prepared remarks, also noted the significance of the bill for same-sex couples and their families.

“For millions of Americans, the impacts of this law are necessary and absolutely fundamental,” she said. “It enshrines equality, ensuring same-sex and interracial couples can access all legal protections and financial benefits that marriage affords. It fortifies families from being abandoned and uprooted with the peace of mind that their marriage is federally protected. And it defends dignity. Because everyone deserves to bask in the magical blessing of building a union with the person you love.”

LGBTQ groups also hailed the new law as a significant victory for their community.

“Today, as it always does, love wins. The new law will protect LGBTQ Americans and couples of different races, and their families, recognizing that they and their marriages are as loving and worthy of recognition as any other couple,”GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “GLAAD is proud to be among all those at the White House celebration today who helped achieve this milestone and continue to fight for equality, freedom, and acceptance for every LGBTQ person.”

“I am grateful to the bipartisan efforts that went into passing the Respect for Marriage Act and for President Biden who has championed LGBTQ+ rights during his time in office,” Michael Adams, the CEO of the LGBTQ elder advocacy organization SAGE said in a statement. “After facing lifetimes of discrimination and decades lacking legal and social recognition, LGBTQ+ elders have waited long enough for reliable protection of their right to marry under federal law.

“The signing of this landmark legislation not only protects same-sex couples; it also comes at a critical time as numerous states work to pass anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ laws that harm our LGBTQ+ community,” Adams added. “The message must be loud and clear – LGBTQ+ people are entitled to the same dignity, rights and protections as all Americans. And we must all keep working until that goal is fully realized.”

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