The president’s signature codified same-sex marriage protections into law after Democrat-controlled Congress passed the legislation with help from some Republicans. The bill repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that legally defined marriage as between one man and one woman and permitted states not to recognize same-sex unions from other states. Biden signaled his support of the bill in a statement last week after it passed the House, remarking that it is a “critical” legislative victory for LGBTQ couples.
“Today is a good day!” Biden proclaimed at the signing ceremony. “A day America takes a vital step toward equality, toward liberty and justice, not just for some, but for everyone – toward creating a nation, decency, dignity, and love are recognized, honored, and protected.”
The ceremony was witnessed by thousands of people on the White House South Lawn who were barraged with music from “nonbinary” English singer Sam Smith and musician Cyndi Lauper. The president also personally invited a number of drag queens to attend the ceremony, some of whom have performed in front of children, the Daily Mail reported.
“To be a nonbinary drag artist invited to the White House is something I never imagined would happen. Thank you President & Dr. Biden for inviting me to this historic bill signing. Grateful doesn’t begin to express the emotions I feel,” drag queen Marti Gould Cummings wrote on Instagram.
In his speech, Biden wasn’t satisfied with his recent legislative victory. He also pushed for Congress to pass the leftist Equality Act, strangely claiming that gay people are being married and then thrown out of restaurants the same day.
“When a person can be married in the morning and thrown out of a restaurant for being gay in the afternoon, this is still wrong. Wrong,” Biden said. “And that’s why the people you heard speak today continue to fight to pass the Equality Act. When hospitals, libraries, and community centers are threatened and intimidated because they support LGBTQ children and families, we have to speak out. We must stop the hate and violence.”
The Respect for Marriage Act passed the Senate, 61-36, after Democrats worked to gain the support of GOP senators and clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold. After a delay earlier in the week, the House finally voted on the legislation Thursday, and it easily passed the Democrat-controlled lower chamber, 258-169, with the approval of 39 Republicans.
“This legislation is the latest step in House Democrats’ fight to win full equality for LGBTQ Americans and forge a more perfect union that our children, and their children … all of our children deserve,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on the House floor.
The Respect for Marriage Act does not force states to allow same-sex couples to marry under the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision. It would, however, make it so that any “person acting under color of State law” fully recognizes marriage between two people in another state and that the federal government must recognize marriages if they were valid in the state where the marriage occurred.
A majority of Republicans opposed the bill, arguing that it would pose risks to religious freedom. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) said the bill’s potential consequences on religious freedom weren’t obvious, but legal experts have pointed out a “legitimate risk.”
“Without robust protections in place, federal recognition of same-sex marriage could — read against the backdrop of various federal statutes and the way they have been interpreted by the Supreme Court — inflict harm on those who, for reasons rooted in sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction, do not embrace same-sex marriage,” Lee wrote.
Senators Lee, Marco Rubio (R-FL), and James Lankford (R-OK) all proposed amendments to the Respect for Marriage Act that would specifically include protections for anyone with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage belongs to one man and one woman. None of their amendments passed.
Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), who was one of the 12 GOP senators to vote for the bill, contradicted many of his Republican colleagues and promised that the legislation would not infringe on the rights of individuals or private businesses already protected by the law.
Brandon Drey contributed to this report.