US bill seeks to protect same-sex marriage 0:51
(WABNEWS) — President Joe Biden signed federal law Tuesday establishing new protections for same-sex and interracial couples, capping a personal and national evolution on an issue that has enjoyed growing acceptance over the past decade.
Biden signed the Respect Marriage Act before thousands of guests on the South Lawn, in an act that, according to the White House, reflects the importance of the moment.RELATED
The new law officially annuls the Defense of Marriage Law, which defined marriage between a man and a woman. Requires states to honor the validity of marriage licenses from other states, including gay and interracial unions.
As a senator, Biden voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. The signing of the law on Tuesday marked the culmination of his transformation on this issue. The bill passed the House of Representatives with the support of 39 Republicans who joined Democrats, after passing the Senate with the support of 12 Republican senators.
Such a bill seemed unlikely to many in Washington not long ago, even as public opinion on same-sex marriage has continued to change over the years: the 68% of Americans supported same-sex marriage in 2021, up 14 percentage points from 2014, according to surveys by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Institute for Public Religious Research.
But public mobilization and pressure to pass federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage intensified this year after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, sparking new fears that the nation’s highest court also reconsider other existing rights around marriage equality.
On the day the historic Supreme Court ruling was delivered in June, Biden warned that Judge Clarence Thomas “explicitly called for a reconsideration of the right to marriage equality, the right of couples to make their decisions about contraception This is an extreme and dangerous path that the Court is now taking us on.”
He would then make similar warnings on the campaign trail leading up to the midterms: “We want to make it clear: This is not just about Roe and the election. This is about same-sex marriage. This is about contraception. This is about a whole A number of things are on the agenda,” he said at a Democratic National Committee reception in August.
For Biden, Tuesday’s rally was a reminder of a moment a decade ago that helped spark a national political transformation on this issue. When he was vice president, Biden shocked the country with an unexpected statement delivered in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: He publicly supported same-sex marriage for the first time.
“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men who marry men, women who marry women, and heterosexual men and women who marry someone else have exactly the same rights, all civil rights, all civil liberties,” Biden said when asked if he felt comfortable with same-sex marriage.
Those words, which Biden insisted in later years were unplanned, were an astonishing personal evolution for the man who as a senator had voted to block federal recognition of same-sex marriages and had previously insisted that marriage was only to be celebrated between a man and a woman.
The interview would also mark a turning point in modern American politics, leading then-President Barack Obama to make the same stance several days later and giving other national leaders permission to follow suit.
“That interview was a transformative moment in Biden’s development as a politician. In the Senate, as a presidential candidate and as a vice president, he had always been very cautious around LGBTQ issues, fearful of taking any stance his opponents might use. to portray him as a leftist,” Sasha Issenberg, author of “The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage,” told WABNEWS. “But the reception to what he said on ‘Meet the Press’ was universally praised within his party, especially from LGBTQ advocates and donors who had previously been skeptical of him.”
Enjoying hero treatment by liberal activists, Biden would aggressively associate with LGBTQ causes for years to come, and in particular has been “unusually bold” when it comes to transgender rights, Issenberg said.
Among those invited to the signing of the law at the White House on Tuesday were prominent members of the LGBTQ community and activists. They included Judy Kasen-Windsor, widow of gay rights activist Edie Windsor; Matthew Haynes, co-owner of Club Q, the Colorado Springs LGBTQ club where a gunman killed five people in a mass shooting last month; James Slaugh and Michael Anderson, survivors of the Q Club shooting; and several plaintiffs in cases culminating in the landmark civil rights case Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex couples can marry across the country.
Democratic philanthropist and donor David Bohnett, who has been an outspoken gay and transgender rights activist and longtime Biden supporter, told WABNEWS Tuesday’s bill signing couldn’t come any sooner. crucial.
“[Biden] has demonstrated its support for lesbian and gay civil rights for decades, and Tuesday’s signing of law is a reaffirmation of that at a time when rights are under attack,” Bohnett said.
“I think we are here in response to the hateful and discriminatory actions and tactics of so many on the right and so many who want to dismantle the rights we have fought so hard for for a long time.”