Biden signs Respect for Marriage Act to protect same-sex, interracial marriages


President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act on Tuesday, codifying into law protections for same-sex and interracial couples.

The signing took place in a large ceremony with thousands of attendees on the White House South Lawn.

The Respect for Marriage Act does not guarantee the right to marry. It specifies that states must recognize same-sex marriages across state lines and that same-sex couples have the same federal benefits as any married couple.

The renewed push to codify the protections came after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which affirmed the right to have an abortion. Justice Clarence Thomas in his Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concurring opinion listed the 2015 ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that affirmed right to same-sex marriage, as another landmark case that may be due for review.

Thomas also listed Griswold vs. Connecticut, the 1965 ruling in which the Supreme Court said married couples have the right to obtain contraceptives and Lawrence v. Texas, which in 2003 established the right to engage in private sexual acts.

The Respect for Marriage Act does not codify same-sex marriage, though. It means that if the Supreme Court were to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, states that oppose same-sex marriage could outlaw it, as anti-abortion states are doing after this summer’s ruling.

Democrats were joined by twelve Republican senators and 39 GOP representatives to pass the bill. It passed 258-169 in the House on Thursday with bipartisan support after successfully going through the Senate the week prior in a 61-36 vote.

Biden’s views, like those of many Americans, shifted to support same-sex marriage over his lifetime. Earlier in his decades long Senate tenure, Biden voted for legislation that would curb the advancement of LGBTQ rights like the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA, as it came to be known, was overturned by the signing of Tuesday’s legislation.

As recently as the 2008 election, Biden said in a vice presidential debate that neither he nor former President Barack Obama, then a candidate, supported changing the civil definition of marriage. But in 2012 then-Vice President Biden announced his support for same-sex marriage on NBC’s Meet the Press, backing the measure even before Obama did.


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