President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law.
“Today’s a good day,” said Biden during a signing ceremony that took place on the White House’s South Lawn. “Today America takes a big step towards equality.”
The ceremony took place five days after the Respect for Marriage Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives with 39 Republicans voting in favor.
The bill passed in the U.S. Senate on Nov. 29 by a 61-39 vote margin. The Respect for Marriage Act first passed in the House in July.
Biden during the signing ceremony specifically thanked U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and other lawmakers who helped secure the bill’s passage. Biden also reiterated calls for Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law, and for an end to anti-LGBTQ violence in the wake of last month’s massacre at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the proliferation of anti-trans bills across the country.
“When a person can be married in the morning and thrown out of a restaurant in the afternoon, this is still wrong,” said Biden. “We must stop the hate and violence.”
Vice President Kamala Harris was San Francisco’s district attorney in 2004 when she became one of the first public officials in the country to officiate a same-sex wedding. Harris was California’s attorney general when she successfully challenged the state’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court on June 26, 2013, struck down Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. The Supreme Court on June 25, 2015, issued its landmark Obergefell decision that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country.
Harris noted Tuesday is “a day when thanks to Democrats and Republicans we finally protect marriage rights in federal law.” Dozens of same-sex couples who sued for marriage rights across the country and their families stood on the steps leading to the Truman Balcony as she and Biden spoke.
“For millions of LGBTQI+ Americans and interracial couples, this is a victory and part of a larger fight,” said Harris.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in a concurring opinion he wrote in the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade suggested the Supreme Court should also reconsider Obergefell and two other decisions that guaranteed the right to private, consensual sex and the ability of married couples to purchase and use contraception.
The House first passed the Respect for Marriage Act less than a month after the Supreme Court overturned Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson. California Congressman Mark Takano, who is openly gay, earlier this month told the Washington Blade that Congress was “reeling” from the ruling and Thomas’ opinion and lawmakers said “we need to protect what we can.”
Harris said the Dobbs decision is a reminder that “fundamental rights are interconnected, including the right to marry who you love, the right to access contraception, and the right to make decisions about your own body.” Biden noted Congress passed the Respect for Marriage Act “because of an extreme Supreme Court has stripped away the right important to millions of Americans that existed for half a century.”
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