NewsBreak: President Biden signs landmark bill into law protecting same-sex, interracial marriages

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed historic legislation Tuesday protecting same-sex marriages nationally, marking a major milestone in the fight for gay rights that follows a seismic change in the nation’s attitudes.

“Today is a good day,” Biden said ahead of signing the bill. “Today, America takes a vital step toward equality, toward liberty and justice, not just for some, but for everyone. Toward creating a nation where decency, dignity, and love are recognized, honored and protected.”

At a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act, making it the law that all states recognize same-sex and interracial marriages. Democratic and Republican lawmakers, LGBTQ advocates and plaintiffs in marriage equality cases were among the thousands in attendance.

The new law will protect same-sex marriages if the Supreme Court were to overturn the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which in 2015 legalized same-sex marriages in the U.S.

Biden, in a statement after the legislation cleared the House last week, said the bill “will give peace of mind to millions of LGBTQI+ and interracial couples who are now guaranteed the rights and protections to which they and their children are entitled.”

The push to codify gay and interracial marriage rights in Congress came after Associate Justice Clarence Thomas called on the Supreme Court to “reconsider” other rights established by the Supreme Court in the wake of its June ruling that Americans no longer have a right to abortion.

Thomas, in a concurring opinion backing the overturning of Roe v. Wade, singled out opinions that blocked states from banning contraception, sex by same-sex couples and gay marriage.

Biden pointed to “uncertainty” after the Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe, saying the new law restores a “measure of security to millions of marriages and families.”

Between 2,000 to 3,000 lawmakers and advocates attended the signing ceremony on the South Lawn on Tuesday, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Passing the Respect for Marriage Act wasn’t just the right thing to do for America. It was personal to us to our staff and our families. And it’s certainly personal to me,” Schumer said in remarks at the ceremony. “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.”

The ceremony was also star-studded, featuring performances from singers Sam Smith — who is nonbinary — and Cyndi Lauper, who sang “Stay With Me” and “True Colors” respectively.

In remarks ahead of the ceremony, Lauper, who has advocated for LGBT rights, thanked the president and those who helped get the bill passed.

“We can rest easy tonight because our families are validated,” Lauper said at the White House press briefing. “Now we’re allowed to love who we love.”

For Biden, his signature on the legislation strengthens a reputation as the most pro-LGBTQ president in U.S. history – a legacy that started when, as vice president in May 2012, Biden got ahead of his boss, President Barack Obama, by saying he was “absolutely comfortable” with men marrying men or women marrying women.

“What this is all about a simple proposition. Who do you love?” Biden said at the time.

There were about 710,000 married same-sex couple households in the U.S. in 2021, and about 500,000 unmarried same-sex couple households, according to data from the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey.

The new law does not require that states issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples but that they accept the legitimacy of valid marriages performed elsewhere.

The legislation cleared the House last week in a 258-169 vote, with 39 Republicans joining all Democrats, and passed the Senate 61-39, with 12 Republicans voting in favor.

The bipartisan votes reflect a rapid sea change in views about same-sex marriage, which even many Democrats were reluctant to support a decade ago.

“While we are one step closer on our long journey to build a more perfect union, we must never stop fighting for full equality for LGBTQI+ Americans and all Americans,” Biden said in last week’s statement.

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