President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a bill aimed at protecting same-sex and interracial marriage at a celebration expected to attract thousands of visitors to the South Lawn of the White House.
Lawmakers, including several Republicans, on Thursday passed the Respect for Marriage Act through the House. It had earlier passed in the Senate.
Update 4:22 p.m. EST Dec. 13: Biden signed the legislation in front of a thick crowd gathered on the South Lawn of the White House.
“Today is a good day,” he told the crowd before the signing. “Today I sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law. Deciding whether to marry, who to marry, is one of the most profound decisions a person can make.”
He added, “Marriage is a simple proposition. Who do you love, and will you be loyal to that person you love? It’s not more complicated than that.”
Original report: “Congress took a critical step to ensure that Americans have the right to marry the person they love,” Biden said last week in a statement. He added that the bill “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.”
The bill passed through the Senate with 12 Republicans joining Democrats, and through the House with 39 Republicans, according to NPR. It replaces the Defense of Marriage Act, which in 1996 defined marriage as between a man and a woman, The New York Times reported.
The bill does not guarantee people the right to marry, but instead requires officials to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. It also ensures that same-sex couples are entitled the same federal benefits given to other married couples, NPR reported.
Critics of the bill said it would undermine family values and threaten religious liberty, according to the Times. Supporters said it was necessary in the wake of an earlier decision from the Supreme Court that rescinded the right to abortion nationwide and returned the decision to state lawmakers.
In June, the Supreme Court overturned its decision in Roe v. Wade, determining that the case had been wrongfully decided in 1973. In a concurrent opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas included other cases that he believed the court should reexamine, including the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
Jim Obergefell, whose marriage was at the center of the 2015 case, told CNN that he was “not celebrating” after the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act late last month.
“I’m happy that there is at least something that will be codified should Obergefell be overturned,” he said. “I’m happy to have this as opposed to having everything be taken away. But this is not respect for marriage. This would take us back to a time where we are once again second-class citizens who are given something that isn’t marriage, isn’t respected and protected and offered equally to every person in this country.”
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