On Tuesday, December 13, US President Joe Biden officially signed the Respect for Marriage Act, enshrining marriage equality into federal law to protect the rights of same-sex and interracial couples.
The Respect for Marriage Act is a landmark law that will ensure the recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages both by federal and state governments and prohibit discrimination based on the gender and race of a married couple. It also repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (Doma), which established marriage as a union between a man and a woman, effectively denying its benefits to same-sex couples.
Speaking before the signing ceremony, Karine Jean-Pierre, the first openly lesbian Black woman to be appointed White House Press Secretary, said: “There are many colleagues that I work with here who are allies, who are also part of the community, who are incredibly proud. We’re going to see about two to three thousand people out on the South Lawn — activists who have worked on this issue for decades.”
Hundreds of LGBTQ+ activists, entertainers and politicians were present at the signing ceremony at the White House, where President Joe Biden took the final step for the bill to become law after it was passed by Congress last week. “This law and the love it defends strikes a blow against hate in all its forms,” were Biden’s words before he signed the act.
In his speech, President Biden vowed to keep fighting to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people in the US, condemning the “callous and cynical” laws passed by some Republican state legislatures. “Racism, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia, they’re all connected,” he said. “But the antidote to hate is love.”
Join the First Lady, Vice President Harris, the Second Gentleman, and me as we host a ceremony on the South Lawn to sign the Respect for Marriage Act. https://t.co/xqklzlC3Aw
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 13, 2022
Biden also acknowledged the fear that prompted legislators to pass the Act, following the Supreme Court’s decision back in June to overturn the historic Roe v Wade case, an action that effectively removed federal protections for abortion rights in the country. In the wake of the event, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that the court should also reconsider the 2015 Obergfell v Hodges decision, which established marriage equality across the US.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, drag artist and activist Marti Cummings, who was present at the ceremony, said: “This is a great step in the right direction to begin to combat Clarence Thomas’s statements that he made earlier this year, but certainly the fight is far from over”.
“I hope Clarence Thomas is squirming a little bit today,” they added. “I hope it shows them that we’re not going back in the closet. We’re not going anywhere. We’ve been here forever. And they can kick and scream all they want, but we’re going to keep pushing forward until everybody is treated equally under the law.”
Among the people invited to the ceremony were singers Sam Smith and Cyndi Lauper, who performed at the White House to celebrate the occasion. “We can rest easy tonight because our families are validated, and because now we’re allowed to love who we love,” Lauper stated. Sam Smith gave a powerful rendition of their hit track ‘Stay With Me’ and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC also performed in front of a crowd waving rainbow flags to mark this historic moment.
If there is one message that breaks through from today, it's that this law – and the love it defends – strikes a blow against hate in all its forms.
Celebrate with us as I sign the historic Respect for Marriage Act into law. pic.twitter.com/0NFNNCtVVK
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 13, 2022
Also joining them was Andrew Hartzler, a gay man who recently went viral on social media for speaking out against his aunt, Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who cried during her speech in the House which she used to plead with her colleagues to tank the bill to protect marriage equality.
“I immediately started crying because it was just so surreal,” Andrew Hartzler said, speaking of the moment he received the invitation to the ceremony. “It’s really an honor. It says a lot about the power of your own voice and standing up for what you think — or what you know — is the truth and how far that will truly get you.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the Act is the biggest legislative win for LGBTQ+ rights in the US since the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in 2010. “Today is a historic day and a much-needed victory for our community,” said Human Rights Campaign president Kelley Robinson.
“It should be lost on no one that this bill signing comes less than a month after a deadly attack on our community in Colorado Springs, and at a time when the community continues to face ongoing threats of online and offline violence, as well as legislative attacks on our rights.” Robinson continued, “In signing this bill, President Biden has shown that LGBTQ+ peoples’ lives and love are valid and supported.”
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