President Joe Biden is set to sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law today which will grant federal protections to same-sex and interracial couples. This is a landmark moment in the decades-long fight for marriage equality in the U.S.
There will be a signing ceremony on the South Lawn, which will also include special musical guests and performances in “a celebrated event,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced.
“The Respect for Marriage Act … will give peace of mind to millions of LGBTQ+ and interracial couples who will finally be guaranteed the rights and protections to which they and their children are entitled to,” Jean-Pierre said. “The legislation also enjoys support from a majority of Americans across party lines and faith.”
The momentous legislation passed the Senate in November 2023. The House, which usually votes divided, showed strong bipartisan support with 12 Republican senators and 39 GOP House members joining all Democrats and independents to pass the bill.
Biden said in a statement last week that Congress had restored “a measure of security to millions of marriages and families.” This comes after the Supreme Court ended the right to abortion after nearly 50 years in June 2022. It also comes on the heels of Justice Clarence Thomas saying the Supreme Court should also reexamine cases that set precedent on LGBT rights.
“[Congress has] also provided hope and dignity to millions of young people across this country who can grow up knowing that their government will recognize and respect the families they build,” Biden said.
The Respect for Marriage Act will require that people be considered married in any state as long as the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. It will not force states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The bill also will repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. This 1996 act defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and allowed states to decline to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Despite being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor, that law has remained.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke about how the Respect for Marriage Act would be the last piece of legislation she signed as House speaker and how passing the bill will put them on the “right side of history.”
“What a great day, isn't it? Aren't we happy to be here?” Pelosi said at the ceremony. “May I thank you all — not only for being here, but for being there on this issue for such a long time. At last we have history in the making, but not only are we on the right side of history, we are on the right side of the future: expanding freedom in America.”
The decision for President Biden to sign this bill into law should come as no surprise. The POTUS has been open about his support of same-sex marriage since 2012. When Biden was vice president, he declared his support of same-sex marriage.
“The good news is that, as more and more Americans come to understand, what this is all about is a simple proposition: Who do you love?” Biden said then in an interview. “And will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out. It’s what all marriages at their root are about, whether they’re marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals.”