The landmark passage will ensure millions of American LGBTQ+ couples are protected by the law.
Across the world, breaking news of a different side is being celebrated. President Biden will sign the historic Respect for Marriage Act on Tuesday afternoon, providing major federal protections to same-sex marriages and interracial marriages. A large signing ceremony will take place on the White House South Lawn followed by a celebration.
An increasingly rare bipartisan success story, the bill provides federal recognition of same-sex marriages and ensures that they are recognized across state lines. The bill also guarantees same-sex couples receive the same federal benefits as couples with members of the opposite sex, such as social security and those conferred on veterans. It does not guarantee the right for same-sex couples to marry.
“Today, Congress took a critical step to ensure that Americans have the right to marry the person they love,” Biden said in a statement released on Tuesday morning. “The House’s bipartisan passage of the Respect for Marriage Act—by a significant margin—will give peace of mind to millions of LGBTQI+ and interracial couples who are now guaranteed the rights and protections to which they and their children are entitled.”
In the statement, Biden attributed the Supreme Court’s controversial Dobbs decision, which overturned the constitutional right to abortion, as sparking efforts to safeguard and codify civil protections for LGBTQ and interracial couples. He said, “After the uncertainty caused by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, Congress has restored a measure of security to millions of marriages and families. They have also provided hope and dignity to millions of young people across this country who can grow up knowing that their government will recognize and respect the families they build.”
Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who identifies as LGBTQ+ and is in a same-sex marriage, praised the landmark passage. “Starting today, millions of American families will know that our marriages are protected—not just by a margin of one on the Supreme Court but by American law,” he wrote on Twitter this morning.
The Respect for Marriage Act will officially repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed in 1996 during the Clinton administration and federally banned same-sex marriages. Passed by a large, veto-proof Republican-controlled upper and lower chamber of Congress, former President Clinton, at the time, voiced his disapproval of the bill, calling it, “divisive and unnecessary,” but still signed it into law.
Many view the bipartisan passage of Respect for Marriage Act as a reflection of growing public approval of same-sex marriage across both parties. Sixty-one percent of Americans say legalization of same-sex marriage is good for society, according to a Pew Research poll conducted in October. Thirty-nine House Republicans and 12 Republican Senators voted for the Respect of Marriage Act.
In the bill, the federal government is prohibited from denying marriage between two persons “on the basis of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of those individuals.” This also provides major protections to interracial marriages, which became fully legal in the United States in 1967 through Loving v. Virginia. The majority opinions for Loving and Obergefell were both centered around the 14th amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection for all.
Numerous LGBTQ+ advocates and organizations have praised the bill. But they also have encouraged Congress to provide even firmer federal mandates and protections for LGBTQ+ citizens. Many highlight that the conservative-led Supreme Court can still overturn the landmark 2015 Obergefell case, which requires states to issue marriages to all couples. If this happens, states could still individually outlaw same-sex marriages. A couple in, say, Texas, which has laws banning same-sex marriage, would have to travel to a state that recognizes and issues same-sex marriages in order to legally wed.
Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges, criticized the Respect for Marriage Act on CNN. “No, I am not celebrating,” Obergefell said. “I will say I’m happy that at least something has been done, something that we will have to fall back on should the Supreme Court overturn Obergefell in the future, but this act, I find it curious that it’s called the Respect for Marriage Act because this act does not respect LGBTQ+ community, our marriages, our relationships or our families.”
This article was originally published on Vogue.com